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Sonntag, Juni 19, 2005


Dogma (from the Greek, dokein). Original definition and application in classical antiquity: ‘that which seems good.’ As employed in Christian theology, revealed truth ‘that is of God.’

“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father’.”

“The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of Man.” (Benedict XVI)


According to the biblical narrative of Man’s impatience with God and Man’s inhumanity to Man, things have been out of kilter from time immemorial. The church at least used to understand this. Orthodox Christianity, Eastern and Western alike, Catholic and Protestant alike, when still rooted and grounded in God’s Word Written (Holy Scripture) and God’s Word Incarnate (the Person of Christ) has always understood this. The perennial philosophy of credal Christendom traditionally reflected this. Even classical, pre-modern mathematics presupposed this! Such math was about God, too!

But the “new” math” is not so “new”. When I was an undergraduate at The University of the South (when that Christian liberal arts institution was still residually rooted in the trivium and quadrivium) its Vice Chancellor was Edward McCrady, scion of an old Charleston family, scientist, classicist, Episcopal lay theologian, polymath, who was still holding the line in the face of the 300 year-old process of replacing determinate numerical values with symbolism and its Humpty Dumpty consequences, beginning with René Descartes.

Dr. McCrady was among the truth tellers about the emperor’s “new” or “symbolic” clothes! Those “new clothes” reflect the subjective concept of Number as no longer tied to things out there, no longer descriptive, no longer a way of counting the “many” – the multitude of God-given actualities – no longer reflective of a reality extra nos, outside of ourselves or our own minds, but rather a symbolic “calculus” of self-invention, so that even Zero is now conceived as a Number yet does not, of course, identify any number of things!

Since Descartes, mathematics, like everything else, reflects his dictum Cogito, ergo sum: “I think therefore I am.” Or, as the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger often put it: “Reality” has become what Man “simply thought up.” Or again, as the erudite Dr. McCrady, in uncharacteristic lingo, once said about Zero: “There ain’t no such thing.” Or, for that matter, as Flannery O’Connor expostulated about the “symbolic” understanding of Holy Communion: “If it’s symbolic, I say to hell with it!” If so for the sacrament, so also for math!

In contrast to human self-invention, credal Christianity affirms dogma about God the Creator and Man made in God’s image but, because of sin, self-wounded, self-shattered, self-destroying.

Dogma is the opposite of the impatience of Man, of Adam, to make the world over on his own subjective terms, by his own power, by projecting himself, in Man’s not God’s image. Dogma is the opposite of the post-Cartesian impatience to “master” nature, the impatience that leads to the modern world’s cultures of death. Dogma is the opposite of the human impatience that leads to what the new pope has called “the dictatorship of relativism”. Dogma is the opposite of the impatience that wants to say “anything goes” or that there are as many options of salvation as may satisfy the diversity of our multi-cultural longings and lusts. Credo in unum Deum is the opposite of Cogito, ergo sum.

Dogma defines and reflects the patience of God over the long haul, redemption by the One who alone can create ex nihilo and redeem from nihilism, who has the “patience” that expresses itself in the “passion” with which Christ endures the wilderness, sets his face towards Jerusalem, surrenders his own will in the Garden of Gethsemane, carries his Cross on the Via Dolorosa, sheds his blood and implores his Heavenly Father’s forgiveness for his crucifiers, even for us, from that Cross, descends from that Cross to the tomb and thence to the darkness of the place of departed spirits, hell itself, and who there awaits the power of God’s own Spirit to be raised and to return to His Father in Heaven, bearing the marks of his patience and his passion in our human flesh, transfigured and glorified in light eternal.

Serial self-inventor that he was, André Malraux learned the futility of impatience only at long last, at his own lonely death: “It should have been otherwise.” But those who have witnessed the inauguration of Benedict XVI have the advantage of being reminded by the dogma of credal Christianity that salvation is not symbolic, that the Way, the Truth, and the Life are of God in Christ, Crucified and Risen, and that the destruction of the world by Man’s impatience can be, is, and ever shall be “otherwise” for those who receive redemption through the patience and passion of the God-Man, Jesus.

God’s Math, Man’s Fate, and the New Pope

Based on a sermon by the Very Reverend William N. McKeachie
For Alvin Kimel, Fellow Declarationist of Dogma!

Zitiert vom Pontificator, der übrigens eine neue, mir sehr sympathische Adresse im weltweiten Gewebe hat... [Hervorhebung von mir]