Sunday, March 6, 2016

"'These are your gods, O Israel!'"

E. Béricourt, "[Procession de la déesse Raison]" (1793).
Bibliothèque nationale de France.
"the proof that the unbelievers have neither gods nor [any] access to divinity consists in this pretention precisely, repeated incessantly as a great privilege, a great right—that of deciding [for] themselves who is god [(decider eux-mêmes de qui est dieu)]:  the Senate (or National Assembly, or Congress) votes on the divinity of each idol:  '. . . among you, divinity is weighed in the judgment of men.  There is no god except the one you will have decided upon; from now on the man will have to bestow his favor on the god' (Tertullian, Apologeticum 5.1; cf. 13.3).  But by definition ‘There is no one to make gods, Nemo est qui deos faceret (11.3)."

     Jean-Luc Marion on the second-century apologists (who would have had little or nothing to do with modern "apologetics"), "Apologétique et apologie," Communio:  revue catholique internationale 39, no. 1-2 (janvier-avril 2014):  15 (9-17).
     The "accusation [of atheism] remains . . . perfectly current:  not only because Christians find themselves persecuted by other religions and marginalized by widespread unbelief, but because they contest the quasi gods of contemporaneity ('values', 'pluralism', 'tolerance', the 'mastery of the end of life', the 'freedom of choice', [economic] 'growth', the 'market, etc.)" (14).
     "God, the true [God], is not nominated, but only de-nominated [(Dieu, le vrai, ne se nomme pas, au mieux il se dé-nomme)]" (16).
     All of this in the context of the claim that "Christians make their apology [(not apologetics)] by assuming not only atheism, but a double atheism":  1) the objective atheism that consists in finding oneself an orphan of the "moral god", the only one that (modern) metaphysics allows for, and therefore "without God [(atheoi)] in the world" (Eph 2:12), and indeed in finding oneself in such a situation "with the serious terror of the apologue of Nietzsche"; and 2) the active, iconoclastic atheism that "with hammer blows" "shatters the idols and their thousand reappearing heads", the idols of those unbelievers who "cut a good figure and play the hero without God" because they "imagine that they have still other gods in reserve or at hand, still to come, perhaps, unavowed, but in every case more conformable and above all more manageable than He who, even missing (or, precisely, because missing) always maddens [(affole) them]."  The first atheism the early apologists noticed (constater).  The second the contemporary Christian apologist must in addition insist upon (revendiquer) (14-15).  As Christians we must abandon apologetics "in order to return to or rather attain to" a properly Christ- and therefore kerygma-centered apologia of the theologal virtues of faith, hope, and love.  A superb article that someone should translate in its entirety.

     On the other hand, surely this was an urban legend:  "Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favour of Christ.  The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Cæsar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians" (Tertullian, Apologeticum 5.1).

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