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Introduction to Christianity
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John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
Use this thread for quotes that you find particularly noteworthy.


John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
Introduction, Chapter 1:

"[T]here is no escape from the dilemma of being a man. Anyone who makes up his mind to evade the uncertainty of belief will have to experience the uncertainty of unbelief. . . ."


John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
Preface to the New Edition:

"Where there is no uniqueness of persons, the inviolable dignity of each individual person has no foundation, either."

"[E]ven in the 'capitalist' countries, liberation theology was the darling of public opinion; to contradict it was viewed positively as a sin against humanity and mankind, even though no one, naturally, wanted to see the practical measures applied in his own situation, because he, of course, had already arrived at a just social order."


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
John wrote: "Preface to the New Edition:

"[E]ven in the 'capitalist' countries, liberation theology was the darling of public opinion; to contradict it was viewed positively as a sin against humanity and mankind...""


This is true. I'd go even further. In the "capitalist" countries, the spirit of Marxism has become dominant after 1989. What we are seing now (the prevalence of atheism, the assertion that man is just an animal, abortion, euthanasia, sexual education of children, the LGTBIx dictatorship, etc.) is just a consequence of that domination.


John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
Manuel wrote: "John wrote: "Preface to the New Edition:

"[E]ven in the 'capitalist' countries, liberation theology was the darling of public opinion; to contradict it was viewed positively as a sin against human..."


I agree, and I think this is implicit in what Cardinal Ratzinger said in the Introduction, that the Scholastic formulation of verum est ens was replaced by the verum quia factum of Vico and Descartes, which was in turn replaced by the verum quia faciendum, a truth of our own making. What matters now is not a rational approach to revealed truth based on an understanding or inquiry into the nature of being, still less any understanding of history, but merely the goals we would like to make true. This, it seems to me, is the spirit of progressivism, the elevation of what is currently understood as "progress" as the end all and be all of society. In 1989 the capitalist West celebrated its victory in the Cold War over communism, but it seems to me that this was premature, that we continue to lose the battle with Marxism, with those who promise that there is no limit to what they can do, that mankind can define good and evil and can be as gods.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
Another quote from the Introduction, Chapter 1 (my translation):

Faith is not knowing, in the sense of feasible knowledge and its form of possibility of calculation. This cannot be done, and faith will be ridiculous if it tries to establish itself in such forms.


message 7: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments "The future is made wherever people find their way to one another in life-shaping convictions. And a good future grows wherever these convictions come from the truth and lead to it."

"This trend cannot be countered by merely sticking to the precious metal of the fixed formulas of days gone by, for then it remains just a lump of metal, a burden instead of something offering the possibility of true freedom...understand faith afresh as something that makes possible true humanity in the world of today, to expound faith without changing it into the small coin of empty talk painfully laboring to hide a complete spiritual vacuum." [great metaphor!]

"Entering into that 'I' of the creed formula, transforming that schematic 'I' of the formula into the flesh and blood of the personal 'I', was always an unsettling and seemingly almost impossible affair." (Therefore it's never been true that "everyone" was a believer.)

"Belief has always had something of an adventurous break or leap about it, because in every age it represents the risky enterprise of accepting what plainly cannot be seen as the truly real and fundamental." But not a blind, irrational leap of faith; rather, "What happens here is not a blind surrender to the irrational. On the contrary, it is a movement toward the logos, the ratio, toward meaning and so toward truth itself, for in the final analysis the ground on which man takes his stand cannot possibly be anything else but the truth revealing itself."


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
From the last paragraph of the Introduction (my translation):

The Christian faith is not an idea, it is life; it is not spirit for itself, but incarnation, spirit in the body of history and in our body. It is not the mystical self identification of the spirit with God, but obedience and service: surpassing the whole by means of what I cannot do or think.


John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
Manuel wrote: "From the last paragraph of the Introduction (my translation):

The Christian faith is not an idea, it is life; it is not spirit for itself, but incarnation, spirit in the body of history and in our..."


I was going to note that as well. In the English publication it is presented as:

It is, not the mysticism of the self identification of the mind with God, but obedience and service: going beyond oneself, freeing the self precisely through being taken into service by something not made or thought out by oneself, the liberation of being taken into service for the whole .


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John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
"[The little word credo] signifies the deliberate view that what cannot be seen, what can in no wise move into the field of vision, is not unreal; that, on the contrary, what cannot be seen in fact represents true reality, the element that supports and makes possible all the rest of reality."


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
From the end of chapter 5 (my translation):

The supreme power is revealed in the fact that it can renounce all power, that He is powerful not just by force, but above all by the freedom of love, which when rejected shows itself to be more powerful than the victorious powers of the world.


message 12: by Manuel (last edited Jan 10, 2018 01:14AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
In chapter 6 (my translation):

In the beginning of all things there is a consciousness, not just any consciousness, but freedom that in turn creates freedoms. According to this, the Christian faith could be correctly defined as a philosophy of freedom. Neither a comprehensive conscience nor simple material nature constitute for the Christian faith the explanation of the real. At the top of everything there is a freedom that thinks and creates freedoms, by thinking; a freedom that turns freedom into the structural form of every being.

Perhaps there is some influence of Teilhard de Chardin in these words.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
In chapter 8 (my translation):

Everything we have said about Christ can be applied to Christians. Being a Christian means for St. John to be like the Son, to be a son, therefore not to stay as himself or to consist in himself, but to live totally open to the "of" and the "for." As the Christian is "Christ," that is also true for him, and in such expressions he will see how little Christian he is.


message 14: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments "The cry that God is dead resounds on every side and nevertheless, in fact for this very reason, the question of God casts its shadow overpoweringly over all of us."

"The doctrine of the Trinity is only possible as a piece of baffled theology, so to speak." I love that "baffled theology."

"Every heresy is at the same time the cipher for an abiding truth, a cipher we must now preserve with other simultaneously valid statements."

(quoting a Jansenist) "Faith consists of a series of contradictions held together by grace."


Mariangel | 518 comments "This is simply because there is an infinite gulf between God and man; because man is fashioned in such a way that his eyes are only capable of seeing what is not God, and thus for man God is and always will be the essentially invisible, something lying outside his field of vision."

It's very well explained slightly later, that God is not outside the field of vision but could be seen if the field became wider, but that He is in essence outside, and the word "credo" means a choice to consider real what is outside our field of vision.


Mariangel | 518 comments John wrote: ""[The little word credo] signifies the deliberate view that what cannot be seen, what can in no wise move into the field of vision, is not unreal; that, on the contrary, what cannot be seen in facti represents true reality, the element that supports and makes possible all the rest of reality."

In "The wood for the trees", Sister Penelope Lawson explains the meaning of the word "emeth" which has the same root as "amen" in Hebrew - everything she says is actually in Ratzinger's book too, but not as clearly explained:

"When the Greek talked about Truth he meant an intellectual abstraction that was the goal of human thought; but when the Hebrew spoke of Truth (emeth) he meant God acting, and the root meaning of the word was that-which-supports-you, and consequently that-on-which-you-can-depend. The language of the Chosen People is dominated by this central certainty of God which they alone possessed, and their hope for the future was that God would still further reveal Himself in Self-consistent action. Nor were they disappointed of their hope, for when Pilate said: "What is Truth?" in the Greek sense, the Truth Himself in the Hebrew sense was standing before him."


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John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
Mariangel wrote: "Nor were they disappointed of their hope, for when Pilate said: "What is Truth?" in the Greek sense, the Truth Himself in the Hebrew sense was standing before him."

Beautifully put.


message 18: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
If I wrote down here every quote I found noteworthy, I would nearly transcribe the book - I have passages marked on almost every page. In the Prolegomena to the Subject of God (Part I, Chapter 1), I found these especially powerful:

"Both the poverty of human existence and its fullness point to God. Where men have experienced existence in its fullness, its wealth, its beauty, and its greatness, they have always become aware that this existence is an existence for which they owe thanks." and "Where man experiences his solitariness, he experiences at the same time how much his whole existence is a cry for the 'You' and how ill-adapted he is to be only an 'I' in himself."

"[T]he three main forms of polytheism are the worship of bread, the worship of love, and the idolization of power. All three paths are aberrations; they make absolutes out of what is not in itself the absolute, and they thereby make slaves of men." In this I take bread to refer to hunger for material things.

"[F]aith is not a matter of playing with ideas but a very serious business: it says no, and must say no, to the absoluteness of political power and to the worship of the might of the mighty in general."

"We are also coming to understand more and more clearly that the apparent liberation of love and its conversion into a matter of impulse means the delivery of man to the autonomous powers of sex and Eros, to whose merciless slavery he falls victim just when he is under the illusion that he has freed himself."


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
John wrote: "[T]he three main forms of polytheism are the worship of bread, the worship of love, and the idolization of power. All three paths are aberrations; they make absolutes out of what is not in itself the absolute, and they thereby make slaves of men." In this I take bread to refer to hunger for material things."

Yes, these are the three main temptations, according to Boethius (well, actually they were four): the temptation of greed, of pleasure, and of power. The fourth one is the temptation of glory, but here one idolizes oneself, rather than something external, as in the other three.

Notice that the temptations of Jesus in the Gospels are three: the temptation of bread, of power and of glory. In His case there was no temptation of pleasure.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
A couple of quotes from Chapter 8:

Let us notice, finally, that this is also the final character of the union between two persons, performed through the Christian faith with the "yes" of love on which marriage is based. In fact, the indissolubility of marriage must be understood and performed on the basis of faith in God's irrevocable decision to unite in marriage with humanity in Christ.

The whole history of humanity has been lost, broken, because Adam made a false idea of God. He wanted to be like God... Only Adam's model was wrong. He believed that God was an independent, autonomous, sufficient being and, to be like him, he rebelled and disobeyed. But when God revealed Himself, when God wanted to show Himself truly as He was, He was revealed as love, tenderness, effusion of self, infinite indulgence in another, indissoluble union, dependence; God revealed Himself obedient, obedient to death. Thinking he would be like God, Adam became totally different. He entrenched himself in his solitude while God was nothing but communion.


message 21: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments I marked this striking passage too.


message 22: by John (last edited Jan 19, 2018 02:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
I haven't gotten that far yet, but from Part I, Chapter 3:

On the other side, we have an approach I will call for short "interpreted Christianity": the stumbling blocks in Christianity are removed by the interpretative method, and as part of the process of thus rendering it unobjectionable, its actual content is written off as dispensable phraseology, as a periphrasis not required to say the simple things now alleged, by complicated modes of exposition, to constitute its real meaning.

I think of reinterpretations of various miracles as an example of what Benedict is referring to as "interpreted Christianity," for example where the feeding of the thousands is reinterpreted into a glorified stone soup. My own shorthand reference for this approach is "hermeneutic of disbelief."

Not to be encompassed by the greatest, but to let oneself be encompassed by the smallest - that is divine.

At the same time we see here a reversal of value of maximum and minimum, greatest and smallest, that is typical of the Christian understanding of reality. To him who as spirit upholds and encompasses the universe, a spirit, a man's heart with its ability to love, is greater than all the milky ways in the universe.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
From chapter 9:

The truth of man is that he always rises up against truth.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
From chapter 9, about the Resurrection:

...true support can only be found in the one that is, He who never passes or changes, He who remains in the midst of changes and transformations, the living God, who not only keeps the shadow and the echo of my being, whose idea is not just a pure reproduction of reality. I myself am his idea, He makes me before I am; his idea is not a later shadow, but the original strength of my being. In Him I can remain not only as a shadow; in Him I am truly closer to myself than when I try to be close to myself.


message 25: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments "The limits of human righteousness, of human capabilities as a whole, become an indication of the way in which man is thrown back upon the unquestioning gift of love."

"A Christian is someone who knows that he lives first and foremost as the beneficiary of a bounty."

"Christ is the infinite self-expenditure of God."

"Not only God's speech but also his silence is part of the Christian revelation." (silence: incomprehensibility, otherness...)

"God is unrepentant love." (so much more striking then "unconditional love")


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John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
I loved the quote from Einstein: "In the laws of nature 'an intelligence so superior is revealed that in comparison all the significance of human thinking and human arrangements is a completely worthless reflection.'"

Also this from Chapter IV: "A world created and willed on the risk of freedom and love is no longer just mathematics. As the arena of love it is also the playground of freedom and also incurs the risk of evil. It accepts the mystery of darkness for the sake of the greater light constituted by freedom and love."


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John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
From Chapter V of Part One:

[W]e cannot endure as Christians if we think it permissible to make it easier for ourselves today than it was then. Let us anticipate the answer found in those days to thte parting between the path of faith and a path bound to lead to the mere appearance of faith: God is as he shows himself; God does not show himself in a way in which he is not. On this assertion rests the Christian relation with God; in it is grounded the doctrine of the Trinity; indeed, it is this doctrine.

Even if we are not capable of breaking out of the narrow bounds of our consciousness, God can nevertheless break into this consciousness and show himself in it.

The teaching of the Church, as it comes to us in the doctrine of the triune God, means at bottom renouncing any solution and remaining content with a mystery that cannot be plumbed by man.

If the painful history of the human and Christian striving for God proves anything, it surely proves this: that any attempt to reduce God to the scope of our own comprehension leads to the absurd. We can only speak rightly about him if we renounce the attempt to comprehend and let him be the uncomprehended.


message 28: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments "Christinaity is...not...a chance grouping of men, but...the about-turn into real humanity."


message 29: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
Jill wrote: ""Christinaity is...not...a chance grouping of men, but...the about-turn into real humanity.""

I love that.


message 30: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
From Chapter 1 of Part Two:

It is quite often forgotten that the full truth of history eludes documentary verification just as much as the truth of being escapes the experimental approach.

The attempt to outflank historical Christianity and out of the historian's retorts to construct a pure Jesus by whom one should then be able to live is intrinsically absurd.

And most especially this: [F]aith that is not love is not a really Christian faith.


message 31: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1824 comments Mod
Also from Part Two, Chapter 1:

"Being a Christian does not mean duly making a certain obligatory contribution and perhaps, as an especially perfect person, even going a little farther than is required for the fulfillment of the obligation. On the contrary, a Christian is someone who knows that in any case he lives first and foremost as the beneficiary of a bounty and that, consequently, all righteousness can only consist in being himself a donor, like the beggar who is grateful for what he receives and generously passes on part of it on to others. The calculating righteous man, who thinks he can keep his own shirtfront white and build himself up inside it, is the unrighteous man. Human righteousness can only be attained by abandoning one's own claims and being generous to man and to God."

"Excess is God's trademark in his creation."

"If [man] declines to let himself be presented with the gift, then he destroys himself."


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