Sunday, January 22, 2006

Another voice in the echo chamber

Random thoughts and questions:

1) I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh (actually Pittsburgh has no "suburbs" in the traditional sense, but that's another story).....for the last two hours, my neighbors have been shouting "woooooo" on their front lawns, in celebration of the Steelers' impending trip to Super Bowl XL. Mind you, its 35 degress outside right now, and that's an awfully long time to be out the cold, even for something as monumental as an AFC championship.

Like the others here, I'm a Midwesterner in exile, and was present for the glory days of Marty Ball in Kansas City. Now KC is clearly a great football town, but I think I am coming round to the view that Pittsburgh has an even more passionate fan base than KC. Perhaps passionate is not really the word, since Pittsburgh's enthusiasm has a clear whiff of desperation surrounding it. It may be slightly cliche, but it seems true nonetheless, that there is something about living and growing up in a declining rust-belt economy that magnifies the importance of cultural unifieers such as sports teams.

This phenomena even applies to that greatest of cultural unifiers, the Church. I have noticed that Catholics in Pittsburgh can be very enthusiastic about the Church, and very tenacious about Her various insitutional forms. Now, Pittsburgh Catholics, like most American Catholics, aren't terribly orthodox, or concerned with following Church teaching....yet there is still an undercurrent of tenacious and enthusiastic loyalty that I don't seem to remember from Midwestern Catholics.

Of course, I was a Midwestern Catholic for a grand total of six months between the time I converted, and the time I left Missouri, so I welcome any correction here from those with a broader view.

On the same note, Emily Stimpson, from nearby Steubenville, has an outstanding short essay in this month's First Things, that reflects some of this same sentiment.

2) For Christmas, I received a Barnes and Noble gift certificate, and used it to purchase two of the Vintage Spiritual Classics (Benedict's Regula, and The Desert Fathers, for those who care). In order to get free shipping, I had to spend $4 more, and pulled off the electronic bargain shelf a copy of Stephen Unwin's The Probability of God.

Now Trent, I know you have interacted with this Bayesian proof before, and I want your opinion on it (in layman's terms)....I scanned the first chapter, and he seems a little annoying in his approach (surprise, surprise, an annoying theoretical physicist!). Any things I should keep mind while reading?

3) I was reading some catechetical materials today, and came across something that said the Holy Angels intercede for us before the Father....this left me scratching my head a little, since I never really conceived of their function in that way...their function as protectors, messengers, adorers, proclaimers, etc I understand, but I can not honestly recall any scriptural or patristic references to their specifically intercessory function. Can someone suggest any references to mitigate my ignorance here?


Blogger ELY said...

Intercede: To step in, to mediate, intervene.
There is the angel who came down from heaven and asked Mary if she would allow herself to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. There is the struggle of the angel and Jacob and the resulting blessing. The angels who appeared to Abraham and told him Sarah would have a child. Did they not intercede? There are many stories of intercession. And your guardian angel wants to intercede for you as also Our Blessed Mother. Do not let yourself be misguided by linguistics or semantics but rather the value in which you are able to use them to benefit your relationship to God. Otherwise you will be looking for secret codes before long! :)0

Sunday, January 22, 2006 9:00:00 PM  
Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

Unwin's book is a popularization of a line of argument pioneered by Richard Swinburne, which whom I studied at SLU when he was Visiting Distinguished Professor. I'm not sure what you find annoying about his style. Perhaps it's the breezy style in which he treats technical and important matters. I don't find this particularly appealing myself, but it expands the exposure of the idea to which I've dedicated much of my professional career: the application of probability theory to religious subjects. I suppose I'd just keep that in mind as well as the fact that Bayesianism is a very holistic form of reasoning.
Regarding intercessory angels perhas the motivating references is Matthew 18:10 "Videte ne contemnatis unum ex his pusillis dico enim vobis quia angeli eorum in caelis semper vident faciem Patris mei qui in caelis est" or "Don't be cruel to any of these little ones! I promise you that their angels are always with my Father in heaven." There are good articles on angels in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Sunday, January 22, 2006 9:44:00 PM  
Blogger Conan DeWitt said...

1) I understand that it is common to infer from from the "messenger" function of an angel some sort of intercessory function, and that various gospel passages circumspectly point towards such a thing...however, my previous impression was that the evidence was just that - inference, and not explicit reference. After all, messengers do not _have_ to be intercessors and the passage from Matthew seems to set the greatness of the angels in contrast to the "little ones"...that is, you can read the passage without explicitly committing to intercessory angels.

Having said that, I have no problem with the Church's teaching here...I was just wondering if there was more explicit biblical/patrisitc evidence that I was unaware of....

2) The breezy prose combined with theological ignorance was indeed my initial problem with Unwin....however, I understand that it is intended to be popularizing in its nature, and I will not hold it to a standard it does not attempt to meet.

Sunday, January 22, 2006 10:24:00 PM  

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