Saturday, January 14, 2012

"But what, in conclusion, of Joy?"

     "But what, in conclusion, of Joy?  for that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about.  To tell you the truth, the subject has nearly lost all interest for me since I became a Christian.  I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away.  I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the old stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.  But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it.  It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer.  While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts.  When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter.  He who first sees it cries, 'Look!'  The whole party gathers round and stares.  But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare.  They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up.  But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold.  'We would be at Jerusalem.'"

     C. S. Lewis, Surprised by joy:  the shape of my early life (Orlando, FL:  A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc., 1955), 238 (chap. 15, The beginning).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Different religions

"Differences of practice are of two kinds:  those that (after the initial surprise) we can accommodate as mere divergences of custom or of culture, and those that strike us as reflecting differences of principle.  The distinction is prior to the formulation of the underlying principle.  We apprehend a divergence of practice from our own either as merely a different way of practising the same religion, even if not to our own taste, or else as signalling that the religion of those who observe the divergent practice is not quite the same as our own:  and, in the latter case, we ordinarily recognize the divergence as being of the second kind before we can put into words the difference of principle that we feel to exist.  If you do this, or if you do not do that, we want to say, you must understand what you are doing in an essentially different way from that in which we understand it; recognizing this to be so does not require that we have any means at hand to formulate that difference of understanding.  It is in this that we see most clearly reflected the priority of practice over doctrine that usually prevails:  the doctrine attempts to give verbal expression to a significance that is apprehended in advance of that expression.  That is why differences of practice, when they are of the second kind, are of greater importance than differences of formulated doctrine."

     Michael Dummett, "The intelligibility of eucharistic doctrine," in The rationality of religious belief:  essays in honour of Basil Mitchell, ed. William J. Abraham and Steven W. Holtzer (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1987), 236-237.