Tuesday 21 February 2012

Natural law and the archaeology of blogging

                                       The Time Team spots a sherd of Catholic truth…

On another day when I find myself wondering whether the siren call of the internet really has added much to human welfare, the fairly random clicking back and forth across the net turned up a stratum of blogging I hadn’t previously been aware of.

One of the bloggers I regularly turn to is Ches at The Sensible Bond. Whilst randomly flitting between websites I discovered a previous stratum of Ches’ activities. It makes (on the subject of one of the Christian conscience vs Equality Legislation cases) a point that is all too relevant to much of the Church’s campaigning in the public sphere and which deserves to be dug up, brushed off, and preserved in this virtual display case:

…the fostering of a 'faith' ticket has been a great facilitator of ecumenical friendliness, especially now we are surrounded by a secular society, but it seems to have been achieved at the expense of a cogent, persuasive and well-argued Christian rationality. Seeking out a richer scriptural basis for doctrinal understanding is all very well as an ecclesial exercise ad intra, or as a way of convincing Bible Christians that the Church is no stranger to Scripture, but if you want to win an argument in the public square, you have to base your position on principles recognized in the public square. Claiming a special status for Christian sensibilities is just not going to work in the current climate.

[…] The most worrying thing is that in [the] ruling, and its ilk, a hardening secular reason marches on almost without any opposition, and the religions intervening in the debate are sounding increasingly shrill by looking for a special 'faith' status.

Defend this ground on the basis of natural law, or you'll not have a shred of religion left in this country which can function in the public domain. The paradox is in this regard that we have to be faithless in order to be faithful.

One of the problems with the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ has been a blurring between the distinctive Catholic approach to Christianity and morality and those of Protestant churches. By relying solely on scriptural or dogmatic arguments against immorality –as there is a tendency to do with sola fide Protestants- at best our views will be tolerated by a modern cultural relativism as a picturesque survival of an ancient cult; by basing them on the Graeco-Roman philosophical heritage embodied in natural law, we have a chance to engage rationally with the secular world. 

By the way, I don’t underestimate the difficulties of a debate focused on human nature. But that’s simply because I don’t underestimate the difficulties of any rational debate. In particular, a blindness to nuances of rational argument and a refusal to consider any philosophical position that can’t be expressed within a combox are rapidly becoming the anti-rational characteristics of a secularism which ironically prides itself on its rationality.

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