Must Apologetics be rational or pragmatic?

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Must Apologetics be rational or pragmatic?

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1eschator83
Dez 21, 2016, 5:44pm

I'm hoping to understand whether mysticism and spiritualism have a significant and effective role in apologetics, or whether these are inherently more significant only in worship itself, or evangelism.

2John5918
Dez 21, 2016, 11:27pm

I think trying to explain Christianity to anyone, whether Christian or non-Christian, only through intellectual means is doomed to fail. Our relationship with God is just that - a relationship - and is thus experiential. Hence the mystic tradition of the Church, the spirituality (I don't think I would use the term spiritualism, which implies something different) is an essential part, alongside the intellectual.

Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast says something like, "Theology without the experience of God is like literary criticism without the poem" (probably in his book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer). We need to experience the poem, not just explain it through literary criticism.

3timspalding
Editado: Dez 22, 2016, 3:30am

I say no. Spiritual experience is necessary for conversion, and in practice it often goes along with apologetics. But apologetics is really the defense of Christianity against misunderstanding and misrepresentation, and, when objections are not explicitly formulated, simply the effort to assert the reasonableness of our beliefs. Apologetics—apologetics that plays fair—does not say "Christianity is true" but "Christianity is not unreasonable."

Spirituality and, worse, dogmatic assertion have no place in that debate. And when they enter, they corrupt it, and turn people--reasonable people, anyway--against the faith. I found this a lot in my own slow conversion, particularly in my teens, when I was in Protestant circles. Someone would raise a legitimate question of Biblical interpretation or philosophy and the answer would side-step the issue in favor of "pray about it" or "I experienced a tingle"-type stories. As for dogmatic assertion, it seems half the ex-Catholics in the world have some story about when a school-teacher nun wouldn't answer their objection. Most of those still think their 10 year-old noodling in philosophy was a valid criticism of the faith.

To respond to John on another level, while we cannot neglect the experiential, I find the contemporary Catholic church philosophically adrift. Respect, understanding and use of philosophy are in sharp decline in the culture generally, and Catholics are swimming with the stream. If Catholics lose respect for philosophy--"Christian" and not--we will lose many Catholics to bad philosophical objections, and close off one of the most important ways converts come to the faith.

4John5918
Dez 22, 2016, 3:34am

>3 timspalding: "pray about it" or "I experienced a tingle"-type stories

Both of which have little to do with the mystical tradition of the Church nor with spirituality.

while we cannot neglect the experiential

Well, that's what I'm saying. As with most things, it's not either/or but both/and. I find a lot of contemporary Catholic conversations to be far too focused on the intellectual and doctrinal, so I take any opportunity to point out the more holistic side of things. Mind you, it's getting better with Francis, as he constantly reminds us of the pastoral.

5timspalding
Dez 22, 2016, 4:55am

>4 John5918:

Both praying and personal experience of the divine do have something to do with spirituality.

FWIW, I'm not putting prayer down. Apologetics is notably only a small part of a good RCIA program. Prayer and encouraging prayer is far more important.

I find a lot of contemporary Catholic conversations to be far too focused on the intellectual and doctrinal

Perhaps, but the quality is so low.

6John5918
Dez 22, 2016, 5:25am

>5 timspalding: Both praying and personal experience of the divine do have something to do with spirituality.

Of course. But I would still suggest, with all due respect, that simply saying "pray about it" and "I experienced a tingle" in the throwaway sense which I understood from your original comment have little to do with spirituality and almost nothing to do with the mystic tradition. Maybe I misunderstood your reference to them.

Perhaps, but the quality is so low.

Perhaps precisely because they concentrate too much on the intellectual and doctrinal without paying due regard to the pastoral and mystic? Again, Francis tries to redress that imbalance.

7eschator83
Jan 11, 2017, 3:20pm

I've been reading and re-rereading Pope Francis' message for the "world day of peace." Although I'm very thankful there is no active major war in progress, I suspect the number of atrocities committed each day around the world would appall us if we knew the numbers and facts.
The frequently contradictory attitudes of mystic vs pragmatic Christians (and Catholics) leads to such dichotomies as Popes that have called for "just war," and others calling for pacifism and forgiveness of evil even without repentance and conversion.
I think the low level of pragmatism in many countries around the world has led them into deep corruption, near bankruptcy, and conquest by tyrants, because some authorities would not oppose evil, and this is a dreadful tragedy.

8John5918
Editado: Jan 12, 2017, 1:16pm

>7 eschator83: there is no active major war in progress

I would not agree with this statement. I would suggest that Syria and Iraq are "active major wars", not only in terms of the scale of the fighting, killing, destruction, forced migration and suffering, but also of both international involvement and international impact.

Closer to home for me are Sudan and South Sudan. I'm currently in a workshop with the retired Cathoic Bishop of El Obeid who is running the part of the diocese which is under rebel control (as the current bishop does not have access to that area) and most of his pastoral, health, education, developmental and humanitarian personnel. Our hospital in the Nuba Mountains is being bombed on a regular basis, people are sheltering in caves, there is massive food insecurity, and we are currently gearing up to survive the major offensive which government forces are about to launch now that the dry season has arrived. Darfur and Blue Nile are two other major active wars in Sudan, while South Sudan is also experiencing a new civil war.

The frequently contradictory attitudes of mystic vs pragmatic Christians (and Catholics)

I would not characterise mystics and pragmatists as contradictory; rather I would suggest mystics/pragmatists v dogmatists.

Popes that have called for "just war," and others calling for pacifism

Popes at least since John XXIII have been pretty consistent in moving away from the concept that there can in practice be a "just war". However the opposite of "just war" is not pacificism. While many of those who are reflecting on the problems posed by the "just war" theory are pacifists, there are others who are not. There are possible scenarios where a limited degree of force might be used without escalating to the level of war.

forgiveness of evil even without repentance and conversion

I'd be interested to see some examples of this cited.

9eschator83
Editado: Jan 13, 2017, 5:00pm

Hmm, where to start? Are you stalking paper tigers, or do they stalk you? I'm trying to understand whether spirituality or pragmatism can best help us understand and believe such concepts as Providence and Redemption.
Perhaps it's best to express this in another way: I'm wondering if they are used most effectively and persuasively in apologetics, or preaching, or catechism.
I entirely concur with the phrase you attributed to Bother David, that the essence of all theology is our experience of God. Yet to me our experience of God seems the ultimate of pragmatism: believers feel His Presence, we feel His Will, His Support, beyond any possible question.
To call this mysticism, or even spiritualism, seems to me at least a bit skeptical, or worse. But my primary question is, which is the best basis to most effectively demonstrate and explain our Faith?

10timspalding
Editado: Jan 14, 2017, 9:51am

Popes at least since John XXIII have been pretty consistent in moving away from the concept that there can in practice be a "just war". However the opposite of "just war" is not pacificism. While many of those who are reflecting on the problems posed by the "just war" theory are pacifists, there are others who are not. There are possible scenarios where a limited degree of force might be used without escalating to the level of war.

Islamic terrorists create a state near you. They are systematically destroying Christian and Yazidi villages, executing men and older boys and selling women into chattel slavery. They are coming to your town, and will surely do the same.

Fortunately, you have a lot of young men, and guns. Do you: "investigate possible scenarios where a limited degree of force might be used without escalating to the level of war"? What would that be—pushing? harsh language? Nerf®?

11John5918
Editado: Jan 14, 2017, 12:16pm

>10 timspalding:

Even under existing "just war" theory it is very likely that creating a war (as opposed to a limited action) in those circumstance would not meet traditional "just war" criteria. Most people tend to forget that a "just war" has to satisfy all of a number of criteria. Nobody would deny that the scenario you describe constitutes a "just cause", but "just cause" alone does not legitimate a war unless the other criteria are also met. In fact "just cause" is usually the easiest criterion to meet. There are plenty of horrific injustices in the world but that doesn't mean we are justified, under traditional Catholic "just war" theory, in creating more violence to try to prevent them.

One nonviolent possibility in the case you describe might be evacuation, which in practice is probably what they will have to do anyway after lots of the civilians have been killed, even if armed force is used against the invaders. Of course it would also mean that European states would have to fulfil their international obligations by accepting the refugees. Cheaper all round to send in a few fighter-bombers or drones, and our military-industrial complex makes a profit out of it to boot.

Another possibility, of course, would have been not to initiate an earlier war where even the "just cause" criterion was arguably not met, let alone all the others, and thus not have created the conditions for the "Islamic terrorists" to create such a state. Hindsight, yes, but this is precisely one of the reasons why we have to stop resorting to war to resolve disputes when it is absolutely clear that such action will only create more unpredictable violence in the future.

12eschator83
Editado: Jan 15, 2017, 8:54am

The heart of the religious pacifism teachings, which seem to me to be mystical because they rely basically on either an expectation of miraculous Intervention, or on the presumption that God Wills the End of the Age and a variety of prophecies about the next age. Obviously, pacifists believe they will either be spared from the tribulation, or redeemed for Eternal Life.
As for the logic of heathen and atheist pacifists, I have no desire to learn.
I've been looking for books which describe the Just war teachings and Apologetics, especially St Bernard of Clairvaux, who paradoxically is often referred to as one of the most mystic.

13timspalding
Editado: Jan 14, 2017, 3:56pm

>11 John5918:

Nonsense. The only reason that evacuation of Christians from Iraq might work is that someone opposes ISIS with force. Safety and camps exist in Jordan and Turkey because these countries protect their borders with force. That is, if ISIS fighters try to drive into these countries, far larger armies, with tanks, shoot at them. They don't do this with pop-guns. And if they didn't—if the neighboring countries all decided to "evacuate," not fight—someone else would. What would it mean for Europe to "protect refugees," if it didn't protect them from invaders? The first bad actor with enough people would be camped out in Berlin, Paris and London.

No, the safety of all these countries depends upon the willingness to wage war when attacked. They're so safe now because no one dares attack them—they know they don't stand a chance against the war they've face in return. And, in Syria and Iraq, the potential for a normal life in the future, where Christian and Yazidi women aren't bought and sold and raped indiscriminately, depends upon the willingness of good people to shoot at ISIS, and end their despicable regime. In such contexts, the opposition to "just war" immoral and stupid, not just direct opposition to the commandment not to stand idly by when the blood of others' is shed, it's infantile. It's a conversation with my young child in which he insists everyone would be better off if there were "money machines." It's embarrassing to have these debates with a grown man.

one of the reasons why we have to stop resorting to war to resolve disputes when it is absolutely clear that such action will only create more unpredictable violence in the future

Demonstrably false. Why is western Europe today a safe place? Why are they so safe they noodle about non-violence? Because my grandfather and probably yours killed Nazis bent on killing them and others, and kept our countries safe for human rights, democracy and, you know, Jews, gays, Gypsies, people with your political views, and the rest. It's only too bad they didn't kill the Nazis sooner, or millions of people wouldn't have been gassed. And it's particularly unfortunate that the Vatican in particular couldn't bring itself to do much but speak "against war" when evil men were murdering millions.

14John5918
Editado: Jan 15, 2017, 1:59am

>13 timspalding:

Tim, you're very competently presenting the dominant thinking of the secular world. Many in the world would agree with you. To use a metaphor which you yourself introduced, much of the global discourse on war is so superficial as to be almost childish, making uncritical assumptions about war and peace and exhibiting a clear bias in one direction. It's ironic that here I'm the one defending traditional Catholic teaching, as I'm often preceived as being on the other side of such conversations!

I am referring to traditional Catholic "just war" teaching (which is not pacifism), which has been honed over hundreds of years, and which is still developing. You clearly do not accept Catholic teaching on this, and that's fine. I have also pointed out here and elsewhere that the trend of the last few popes (John XXIII onwards) has been to tighten our interpretation of what can constitute a "just war" rather than loosen it. Modern warfare almost always fails to meet the traditional criteria of "just war".

The voice of those who suffer from the war has to be heard (and is being heard by the Church). One of my most moving experiences of 2016 was listening to a young Iraqi nun saying clearly, "there is no just war", based on her experience of years of being bombed by people supposedly trying to save her. In the Vatican conference of March 2016 most of the participants were from current or recent conflicts, and none of them were suggesting that more war is the answer to their problems.

Part of what the popes are also recognising, I think, is that war is now almost the default position when faced with a violent problem, regardless of whether it meets any of the criteria except "just cause", and I would say that this is also the case with your argument. Where is the incentive to develop other forms of resistance, or to use a "do no harm" lens to try to prevent violence, rather than simply going with the flow and resorting to violence as a simple solution (and doesn't the western world love simple solutions)? Where is the investment of money, materiel and human resources into non-violent and preventative methods, compared to the huge investment in the military-industrial complex? Where is the attempt to create conditions for just and peaceful societies and thus remove many of the underlying causes for violence? This way of thinking needs to be changed, the popes say.

Edge cases do not make good policy, and the underlying principle is that we need to find a way of breaking cycles of violence rather than simply responding to violence with more violence, which we know will just lead to further violence. That's the whole point of Catholic "just war" teaching - the default position is that war is sinful and unacceptable (see my reference to Aquinas below) but that each case has to be considered soberly (not emotionally) and measured against a set of criteria to judge whether this sin might be the lesser of two evils in a particular instance. As I never tire of repeating, these criteria include not only just cause but also legitimate authority, proportionality (that the good achieved will outweigh the evil caused), a reasonable chance that this good actually will be achieved (ie success), and that war is a last resort after all other means have been tried.

In modern warfare rarely if ever is the proportionality criterion satisfied. Increasingly we see that the success criterion cannot be achieved, except in the most limited and short term manner. And, as I mentioned above, war is rarely a last resort nowadays - this is something that Pope John Paul II frequently referred to.

>12 eschator83:

My understanding is that Catholic thinking on "just war" owes a lot to Thomas Aquinas, who taught that war is always sinful, but who recognised certain occasions when this sin might be tolerable, hence the development of the "just war" criteria.

Recently I saw a nice quote from A A Milne, a World War I veteran, peace activist and later of course the author of the Winnie the Pooh books, which is very much in line with Aquinas: "war is poison, and not (as so many think) an over-strong, extremely unpleasant medicine.”

15John5918
Editado: Jan 15, 2017, 3:09am

As I sip my morning cup of tea, I think two further reflections might help the conversation. One is personal, the other is a variation of a well known ethics thought experiment.

For 22 years I supported in principle the armed liberation struggle in Sudan, which I lived through. Broadly it met the "just war" criteria. Just cause? 200 years of marginalisation and discrimination at best, opperssion and persecution at worst. Legitimate authority? The liberation movement enjoyed the support of most of the population, which in practice legitimised it. Proportionality? Difficult to quantify, of course, but there's little doubt that the majority of the population believed that the goal of liberation was worth the price they were paying in suffering, death and destruction. Reasonable chance of success? Well, they did succeed, and attained independence from Sudan. The armed struggle was not the only factor, as the final outcome was influenced both by global dynamics (notably 9/11, when the USA woke up and realised that small conflicts in distant lands could have a direct influence on the USA) and by other actors, including the nonviolent peacebuilding being done by the Sudanese Church, and indeed it was not an outright military victory for the liberation movement, but nevertheless the fact that they were able to fight the government forces to a standstill and create a military stalemate played a major role in forcing the government to negotiate seriously. Last resort? They had indeed tried just about everything else. Formal negotiations could be said to have begun in 1947. They received nothing but broken promises (prompting a well known book by former vice-president and elder statesman Abel Alier entitled Too many agreements dishonored (touchstone mot working)). They tried various forms of regional autonomy, federalism and centralised governance. Over the years they negotiated with various governments - civilian and miilitary, dictatorships and democratically elected, Islamist and secularist. The overthrow of two military dictatorships in Khartoum by peaceful popular uprisings in 1964 and 1985 made little difference.

South Sudanese celebrated when they achieved their independence in 2011, at the cost of at least 2.5 million dead. However within three years they were at war again, this time due to divisions within their new nation, many of which are a direct legacy* of the previous half century of violent conflict (not only the 22-year civil war of 1983-2005 but also an earlier one of 1955-72). Apart from those with a direct vested interest (including politicians, warlords, youth with no prospects other than taking up a gun, arms dealers, black marketeers, etc) very few people in South Sudan see war as a solution to anything. There is an increasing understanding that the current violence is a result of the previous violence and that violence only begets more violence. The Church in South Sudan has begun using the narrative of nonviolence and just peace which emerged from the Vatican conference in March 2016. This shift in my personal understanding is both mirrored and influenced by the shift in understanding of the real victims of violent conflict, the people I have lived and worked amongst for more than thirty years.

On a different level, I'm sure many are familiar with the thought experiment of the runaway train. On the track ahead are five people unable to move off, and they will certainly be killed unless something is done. But between the train and them there is a set of points (a switch in US railroad parlance) which can be turned to divert the train onto a parallel track where there is only one person stuck on the track. Do you allow the train to proceed on its way and thus it will kill five people, or do you change the points/switch and divert it onto the other track, thus deliberately killing one person? The thought experiment goes on to ask whether, if there is a fat man standing on a bridge whose bulk could derail and stop the train, should you push him off the bridge to save all the people on the track? Is it just about how many lives you save, or is there more to it? As Catholics, are we simply Utilitarians?

But let me modify the thought experiment to suit the current conversation on war. Let's keep the track with five people on it, and the points which divert the train onto a parallel track where there is indeed one person a short distance ahead. But let's assume that we know without doubt that a few hundred metres beyond that one person there are another two people, and that a little beyond them is yet another pair of people, totalling five. If we divert the train, then it's true that in the first few seconds we will reduce the death toll from five to one, but a couple of minutes later it will rise to three and soon after that to five. Indeed there might be even more people further down the line so the death toll will rise even higher than five.

This modified thought experiment, in my view, describes the situation that Tim mentions. Indeed we know that people will die if we don't change the points, but if we do change the points (ie respond with violence), we may in the short term reduce the death toll, but we know with absolute certainty that this will not be the end of it and that the violence will continue to escalate leading to far more deaths.

We could also add that the narrative of nonviolence and just peace seeks to prevent the train from killing people through other means. Learning lessons from previous train accidents, preventive maintenance on the brakes and perhaps the installation of an expensive automatic train control system would quite possibly have prevented it, just as reflection on previous violent conflicts has generated a lot of practical nonviolent methods for preventing and moderating conflict - but almost no resources nor political will are invested in these, compared with investment in the military options. Neither are most governments, self-interested and short-term as they are, ready to consider the political and economical changes which could help to create a more just and peaceful world.
______________________

Incidentally, this is one of the empirical findings of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan in their book Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, namely that the aftermath of a nonviolent conflict is more likely to be more stable, more democratic and more respecting of human rights than a violent one.

16timspalding
Editado: Jan 15, 2017, 5:24pm

Tim, you're very competently presenting the dominant thinking of the secular world.

You clearly do not accept Catholic teaching on this, and that's fine.

On the contrary, and you have moved from childish to insulting. The situation and thinking I gave are entirely consonant with Catholic Tradition, not to mention with the Catechism. I'll take the three cases I gave--which you completely ignored--separately:

A. Defending your village from attack by ISIS armies.
B. Defending your country's borders from ISIS armies.
C. Fighting ISIS to recapture areas lost to their wretched rule.

"The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

A. Obviously.
B. Obviously.
C. Obviously.

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

A. Obviously.
B. Obviously.
C. Obviously.

- there must be serious prospects of success;

A. If there's no chance of success, one should probably retreat, to link up with others who might give you a better chance. In practice, anti-ISIS fighters sometimes succeeded by giving non-combattants time to flee.
B. Obviously.
C. Obviously.

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

A. Obviously.
B. Obiously.
C. It depends. Carpet-bombing Mosul and Raqqa is out. But ordinary modern warfare is not, particularly in light of the graviy of the "evil to be eliminated."


Modern warfare almost always fails to meet the traditional criteria of "just war".

Not said in the Catechism. Not said in the Compendium of Social Doctrine.

FWIW, it's fortunate this hasn't made it into doctrinal texts, because it hinges on a historical truism that doesn't stand up to scruitiny--namely that modern warfare is particularly indiscriminate, with more risk to civilians than in wars past.

There have certainly been times when warfare was supposed to be a matter between armies, but far fewer than is sometimes supposed. Your A. A. Milne fell victim to this, writing, "modern war is something as far remove from the Napoleonic wars as they were from a boxing match." We are, I supposed, to imagine prints of soldiers shooting at soliders in empty fields. But in doing so we ignore the millions of civilians killed, not to mention raped or otherwise brutalized. It's notable that we don't even know how many civilians died in the Napoleonic wars, but the estimates (see Wikipedia) put civilian and military on the same order of magnitude. Meanwhile, Allied attacks on German civilians, and indeed the German attacks on British ones, both often held up as an example of unjustice (and I'd agree), killed an order of magnitude fewer civilians than either nation lost in military action.

Recently I saw a nice quote from A A Milne, a World War I veteran, peace activist and later of course the author of the Winnie the Pooh books, which is very much in line with Aquinas: "war is poison, and not (as so many think) an over-strong, extremely unpleasant medicine.”

This sort of thinking was very common after World War I, a war that was, indeed, unjust on many levels. But sloppy generalizations have bad consequences. In the case of World War I, wrong generalizations about war lead to a unwillingness to stop Hitler early on, when he was vulnerable. Later, it prevented action as Hitler rearmed, invaded Europe piecemeal, and grew stronger and more confident in the inaction of his adversaries. In the end British and other allied anti-war sentiment produced a bumper crop of war, death and, well, genocide. They "stood idly by the blood of their neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16). That was sin, not virtue.

Anyway, it's funny you'd cite A. A. Milne. He did indeed say what you said. But his views developed and, during World War Two, replied to his previous Peace with Honor with the justificatory War with Honour. I suppose you're a A. A. Milne Trad. :)

17John5918
Editado: Jan 16, 2017, 9:13am

>16 timspalding:

Well, clearly we disagree. I disagree with your particular application of Catholic teaching.

I disagree with your list of "obviously". Actually they are not at all obvious - real life is far more complex than that. They are also very short-term, failing to recognise the bigger and longer-term picture.

Yes, A A Milne did develop his thinking as a result of his experiences, and he was certainly no pacifist later in life. My personal view has also developed as a result of a quarter or a century of actually living through conflict. Mine has moved towards a more restricted application of Catholic "just war" theory rather than a looser one. I repeat this is not pacifism but reading the signs of the times, as Gaudium et spes instructs us.

Modern warfare almost always fails to meet the traditional criteria of "just war".

Not said in the Catechism. Not said in the Compendium of Social Doctrine.


It doesn't have to be said in the Catechism or the Compendium. They give us the tools, we then apply the tools. That's what those who experience and study war are trying to do. The criteria obviously have to be applied to each individual case, but as one does so one finds that modern warfare does indeed almost always fail to meet the traditional criteria of "just war". That's not a rule nor an additional criterion, it is simply what we notice.

ordinary modern warfare

I've met few victims of "ordinary modern warfare" who are as sanguine about it as you are.

Edited to add:

Sorry, I just noticed that you think I am ignoring your examples. Not intended - I rather thought that everything I wrote was indeed answering your examples. Let me add one or two specifics.

the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain

As soon as we start talking about damage to "the community of nations", we find there is huge disagreement across the world about it. You tend to view it through a US lens. That's not a criticism - we all view it through our own lenses - but there are many different lenses. Mine is different to yours. You have said elsewhere that you have grave doubts about the pope's geopolitical understanding - that's another way of saying that his geopolitical understanding is different from yours.

Lasting, grave and certain damage? Well that's certainly the result (and the predictable result for many of those outside the western establishment) of the international decisions to make war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in response to the type of situation you outline.

one should probably retreat

Perhaps one should first convince the EU and other rich nations to fulfil their obligations towards refugees and to actually welcome people retreating from this sort of situation? Wouldn't that cause less grave and lasting damage than continuing to contribute EU resources to ongoing warfare?

all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective

Again, that is open to differing interpretations, including by many of those on the ground.

But more importantly, it is possible to preempt wars. It is lazy to keep on using the same excuse that we must act in this or that situation knowing that by doing so we are certainly contributing to creating the same situation again - that sounds to me like lasting, grave and certain damage.

there must be serious prospects of success

In none of your examples is there a serious prospect of success in anything but the most limited tactical sense. There is a much greater prospect of failure, and of continued and escalated warfare either there or nearby, either soon or a little further down the road.

the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated

Such as the grave evil of creating the conditions for yet another generation of warfare? To say nothing of the effect on the people who survive.

The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

Sounds to me very much like a coded way of saying that modern warfare almost always fails to meet the traditional criteria of "just war".

All in all, I just think these situations are far more complex than you appear to recognise. Responding to them with violence is the simple response and, as I have said above, it fits the dominant secular worldview. Everybody knows how to do it, everybody already has the weapons and armies and all the other paraphernalia ready at hand. That is the not the intent of Catholic "just war" teaching. We are called to a more sophisticated and considered approach whereby war is always a sin (Aquinas) and we should be very wary indeed of using it as a solution without first considering all other possibilities. In none of the current wars in the world have we explored all options so that we can truly say, "all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective". "All" is a very strong word - it doesn't say "some", or "the convenient methods", or "the well known methods", or "the politically acceptable methods according to a western worldview", or "the conventional default methods".

18John5918
Editado: Jan 19, 2017, 3:05am

Back on topic, here is part of Richard Rohr's daily reflection for today:

I believe the teaching of contemplation is absolutely key to rebuilding Christianity, otherwise our very style of “knowing” is off base and everything that follows is skewed... While rational critique and logical judgment are important for practical matters, they can only get us so far. We need nondual consciousness—the mind of Christ—to process the great questions of love, suffering, death, infinity, and divinity and to be unafraid of diversity and welcoming of union at ever higher and more expansive levels...

let me briefly define the practice of contemplative prayer: In a silent posture of self-emptying, we let go of habitual thoughts and sensations and connect with an Inner Witness (Romans 8:16)—God’s presence within—that gazes back at ourselves and out at reality with an Abiding Love. Contemplation is learning how to offer “a long, loving look at the Real.” 1

Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have a long but intermittent tradition of teaching contemplation. Catholics today may know the word contemplation, but that doesn’t mean we know the actual how or the important why. Instead of teaching silent mindfulness, in recent centuries the church emphasized repetition of rote, wordy prayers, and “attendance” at social prayer. Even most of the great contemplative Orders (Cistercian, Carmelite, Poor Clare, etc.) now recognize that they stopped directly teaching the practice of silent prayer to their own members. Contemplative prayer was largely lost after the dualistic, tribal fights of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. The utter vulnerability of silence did not allow us to “prove” anything and so was no longer attractive. The Protestant tradition does not have a strong history of contemplation beyond a few isolated individuals who discovered it on their own. The Orthodox tradition had it well-documented on paper and in a few monasteries, but it was far too tribal go where contemplation always leads—toward universal compassion, inclusivity, and nonviolence.

So most traditionalists today are not traditional at all! They know so little about the Big Tradition beyond their ethnic version since the last national revolution in their country. That is what happens when you move into a defensive posture against others. You circle the wagons around externals and non-essentials, and the first thing to go is anything interior or as subversive to your own ego as is contemplation...

Christians need to retrieve our own tradition of accessing and living from an alternative consciousness. First we have to know that the Christian contemplative tradition even exists and once flourished. We’re not simply borrowing from Eastern religions and modern neuroscience. It is very clear in the Desert Fathers and Mothers, many of whom fled to the desert in the fourth century so they could practice what they felt was authentic Christianity, unhindered by the priorities of the new imperial religion that was based largely on externals...

1 William McNamara as quoted by Walter J. Burghardt, “Contemplation: A Long, Loving Look at the Real,” Church, No. 5 (Winter 1989), 14-17.


I think what Rohr refers to as contemplation and contemplative prayer is another way of describing the Church's mystical tradition.

19timspalding
Editado: Jan 19, 2017, 4:18am

It doesn't have to be said in the Catechism or the Compendium. They give us the tools, we then apply the tools. That's what those who experience and study war are trying to do. The criteria obviously have to be applied to each individual case, but as one does so one finds that modern warfare does indeed almost always fail to meet the traditional criteria of "just war". That's not a rule nor an additional criterion, it is simply what we notice.

Indeed, but if the Catechism says:
"the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
Given those words, it's a perversion of sense to turn "weighs very heaily" into "always trumps everything."

You at least claim you aren't. You're "noticing." But if you can't support people attempting to prevent ISIS from taking over their area, and can't support making sure their border guards shoot at ISIS if they try to run into neighboring countries, then you can't support it anywhere. These are the limit cases.

If they're not, then, please, give me some cases of actual just war which you support. I want a list--a list of modern wars you endorse.

I recently tried a series of "flighs" of beer at a bar in Portland that does them--lots of little cups to taste beer in. I gave each a grade. After three sets, I hadn't given anything better than a B. As my wife put it, "Tim, you just don't like beer." Well, list your A wars, please.

I've met few victims of "ordinary modern warfare" who are as sanguine about it as you are.

It seems to me you spend a lot of time in conflicts that nobody in their right mind would consider just war. This may be your lens.

I suspect your British parents or grandparents were pretty happy when the Allies defeated Germany. The French were, and they suffered badly. The remaining Jews in the camps certainly were too--the principle complaint of these victims of modern war was that the allies didn't act fast enough and fight hard enough. Even in Germany, polls after the war and down to the present show Germans regard the war as just, and that the right side won.

As for ISIS, we shall, I suppose, have to wait for them to be defeated before PEW can interview their female war captives.

the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain

I do disagree with this point, since it make "nations" a moral unit, and that's moral nonsense. (I'm presuming American use of "nations," since there is no "community of nations" but there is a community of countries.) The "community of nations" is not injured when ISIS kills Yazidis--the community of nations doesn't have a dog in that fight--individual Yazidis are.

Perhaps one should first convince the EU and other rich nations to fulfil their obligations towards refugees and to actually welcome people retreating from this sort of situation? Wouldn't that cause less grave and lasting damage than continuing to contribute EU resources to ongoing warfare?

Certainly I think refugees should be taken in. But, no, you're entirely wrong on the issue of resources. Every dollar spent defeating ISIS goes toward ridding the world of a hellacious, genocidal regime. It brings us a day closer to the abolution of slavery (again). It brings us closer to the conditions that will allow the refugees to return to reunite and return their homes, churches and temples.

I think the fight against ISIS is a moral imperative, and should be pursued even if expensive. But you mentioned "resources," so, well, let's do the math.

* Europe spent $19.2b on refugees in 2016.
* The entire ISIS 2015 government budget is around $2b.
* The US spent around a mere $1.3b on its military efforts in Syria in 2016--and these are expensive planes flown great distances, dropping expensive bombs. Funding groups to defeat ISIS would go a lot farther.

The numbers tell the story. $19.2b has gone to helping a tiny fraction of refugees to safety in Europe--most remain in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which is cheaper. If the EU were to throw $19.2b into the fight against ISIS—into ending the war, not merely dealing with its effects—it would make a huge difference toward getting to that end, and defeating this scourge of humanity.

I'll leave it at that as regards paragraphs responses.

20John5918
Editado: Jan 24, 2017, 3:07am

>19 timspalding:

I haven't got much to add as I think I have set out my position as clearly as I can. Just a few responses to particular points.

it's a perversion of sense to turn "weighs very heavily" into "always trumps everything."

I have never said "always trumps everything". I have just taken seriously the instruction to weigh it very heavily.

please, give me some cases of actual just war which you support

As I said, for 22 years I supported a war that I lived through, the southern Sudanese war of liberation. With hindsight, and particularly having seen the violence which has resulted since and much of which can be attributed to that war, I am much more cautious to label wars as "just".

Looking around the world, I do find it difficult to find cases which satisfy the Catholic just war criteria, bearing in mind that having a just cause does not by itself make the war just. There are plenty of just causes, including Palestinian liberation, and the ISIS cases which you cite, but just cause alone does not necessarily justify war.

It seems to me you spend a lot of time in conflicts that nobody in their right mind would consider just war

On the contrary. The conflict which has had most impact on me (south Sudanese liberation) was very widely judged to be a just war. The weapons used in that war, incidentally, were far less destructive than the ones being used in the wars that you believe to be "just".

I would also point out to you that the nonviolence conference in Rome in April 2016, as well as other conferences, included delegates from most of the significant conflicts in the world, including fresh from the front line in the Iraqi war which you cite, so my interaction with people intimately involved in many different wars has been pretty broad.

I suspect your British parents or grandparents were pretty happy when the Allies defeated Germany

My mother and father both fought in World War II, as did just about every adult I knew when I was growing up - uncles, neighbours, teachers, etc. I'm sure they considered it a just war. It formed a central part of the British national myth. But the criteria of Catholic just war theory are independent of what individual protagonists think, and of what polls show. I wasn't aware that you think Catholic teaching can be developed via opinion polls.

Every dollar spent defeating ISIS goes toward ridding the world of a hellacious, genocidal regime

Well, no. Just bombing "terrorist" groups does not rid the world of the conditions which have allowed them to recruit disaffected young men and women into their ranks, and indeed often makes recruiting easier. It does not prevent them morphing into new and diverse forms of violence, which are then responded to with yet more violence. And those dollars go into propping up an international military-industrial complex which has huge moral issues, and reinforcing the common and rather lazy worldview that the default method of dealing with violence is more violence. In contrast, the trend we have seen from recent popes, continued by the present pope and the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (formerly the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) is to look for ways to break this cycle and to return to a default position that war really is a last resort after all other means have been tried and failed, and that the evil it causes is far less than the good it achieves.

21John5918
Jan 24, 2017, 7:30am

Back to the original topic, again from Richard Rohr's daily meditation:

In the early 1960s, Jesuit Karl Rahner (1904-1984) stated that if Western Christianity did not rediscover its mystical foundations, we might as well close the doors of the churches because we had lost the primary reason for our existence. Now don’t let the word “mystic” scare you. It simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. All spiritual traditions at their mature levels agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and even available to everyone.

Until someone has had some level of inner religious experience, there is no point in asking them to follow the ethical ideals of Jesus or to really understand Christian doctrines beyond the formulaic level...

You quite simply don’t have the power to obey the law or follow any ideal—such as loving others, forgiving enemies, nonviolence, or humble use of power—except in and through union with God. Nor do doctrines like the Trinity, the Real Presence, salvation, or the mystery of Incarnation have any meaning that actually changes your life... Without some inner experience of the Divine, nothing authentically new or life-giving happens...

“Cross and resurrection,” or loss and renewal if you prefer, is a doctrine to which most Christians might intellectually assent; but we worshiped it in Jesus, thanked him for it, and rarely transferred it to our own lives. This mystery of transformation must become the very cornerstone of our own life philosophy. We move into this mystery through actual encounter, surrender, trust, and the infilling of a new and larger life that proceeds from it. This is the experience of an inner movement and presence, not a mere belief or moral position.

22John5918
Editado: Fev 9, 2017, 3:35am

A review of Bernard Lonergan's Method in Theology in Bernard Lonergan drew a map of theology for a new era reminded me of the OP in this thread, especially this bit, which refers to his earlier work, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding:

If you start reading Insight with naive credulity, Lonergan will lead you in the direction of critical thinking. If critical thinking runs you into the ditch of a dead-end skepticism or an anything-goes relativism, Lonergan will pull you out of that ditch by teaching you how to affirm yourself as a knower...


And Rohr again

The most unfortunate thing about the concept of mysticism is that the word itself has become mystified and relegated to a “misty” and distant realm that implies it is only available to a very few. For me, the word simply means experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, secondhand knowledge, seminary or church knowledge.

Most of organized religion has actually discouraged us from taking the mystical path by telling us almost exclusively to trust outer authority (Scripture, Tradition, or various kinds of experts) instead of telling us the value and importance of inner experience itself.

232wonderY
Fev 9, 2017, 7:43am

>22 John5918: That bit from Rohr is good.

I had no idea that Roman Catholics routinely experienced those firsthand encounters until I attended a Christ Renews His Parish weekend. Everyone shared one of their own stories. They are powerful, especially in the collective. I tried to incorporate these types of adult testimonies into Confirmation classes for the teens. Sadly, it wasn't a feature that the class decision makers thought essential.

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