I am updating an old post, dated March 17, to reflect recent events.


Open to judgment: a brief reply to Red Tani

I read his piece criticizing Atty. Jo Imbong, who represents the CBCP.

His piece raises a valid concern. The most important point of agreement here is that one cannot be an essentialist when it comes to delineating what belongs to one “nation” or what is another’s. But David Bentley Hart in particular has a critique of the so-called refutations of Christianity based on paganism:

The gospel entered the ancient world at a time of tremendous religious plurality and spiritual ferment: an age of religious anxiety, when mystery religions, Orphic cults, Gnosticisms, and innumerable devotional sects multiplied uncontrollably and continuously throughout the empire. And I suppose one can look at the issue from either direction. One can gaze backward and conclude that the rise of Christianity was simply the accidental evolutionary consequence of the cultural forces of a certain period and nothing else.

But one might also conclude that Christianity endured, spread, and ultimately succeeded in large part because it provided an answer to seemingly unanswerable cultural and spiritual dilemmas, and addressed certain perennial human yearnings with perhaps unrivalled power. What one thinks that says about the gospel, however, is all very much a matter of what one understands nature, culture, and history to be.

I have one reservation to make to Tani’s critique in particular. There are theologians and thinkers in the Philippines who are indeed helping Roman Catholicism move forward. What comes to mind is the work of liturgical theologians on inculturation of the liturgy, those who are articulating the relationship between theology and particular social/political concerns, and those who are, day after day, doing theology by praying and proclaiming God’s word in different parts of the land in different contexts and situations. I think that the impact seems to be minimal, but the work of the Kingdom starts small.

I have to agree with those who say that if the Church–and here, I speak of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ in general–is open to judgment (as it always is), it must be open to praise for what it does right. And for those who wish to criticize, I believe that it is open to the Church, as the place where the Word of God is proclaimed, to invoke God’s written Word:

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5, NRSV