Synthesis

FAITH Magazine January – February 2011

On November 27 2010 a publicly staged debate on the motion: "That religion is a force for good in the world" took place in Toronto and was shown on Canadian TV. Tony Blair spoke for the motion and Christopher Hitchens against. Hitchens, who won the vote among the 2,700 capacity audience by a factor of 2:1, characterised religion as "a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and ordered to be well" creating a "celestial dictatorship" which was "greedy for praise from dawn to dusk."

We might well observe that a trained theologian or a well-catechised Catholic would probably have been able to answer this caricature, but, with respect, Tony Blair is neither. Actually not all religions, nor even all Christian sects, believe in Original Sin. However, Hitchens' slick parody captures an all-too-common view of Christian teaching.

In this fortieth anniversary year of Faith magazine, we republish the editorial article from May/June 1989 by Edward Holloway, chiefly because it is still so relevant to this controversy. As he predicts in the conclusion, it was in fact one of his last editorials before he retired from the editorship through ill health.

The piece contains a wealth of illuminating insights into the problem of evil and the goodness of God. It beautifully manifests a theology that is also deeply pastoral, and a philosophy that flows from lived experience.

He shows how Original Sin makes sense when we understand the profound communion and mutual ministry of all creation in Christ, in whom we were constituted in original holiness, upon whom the impact of evil was greatest, and in whom is found healing and purification from sin. In him too, the ultimate victory of real goodness and charity is assured. █

The Pope's comments on condoms in his interview with Peter Seewald, Light of the Word, have sparked an online debate between Professor Luke Gormally and Fr Martin Rhonheimer over the definition of the "marital act". Both are agreed that, as it is a personal act, spiritual intentionality is crucial. However, Rhonheimer relegates the traditionally emphasised relationship of this intention to the physical dimension of giving and receiving the male seed. Cormac Burke's piece in this issue offers a helpful development of the traditional vision by beautifully linking the unitive aspect of the marital act with the giving of the "seed of oneself".

Fr Kevin Douglas convincingly defends and develops our understanding of the relationship between physical body and spiritual soul. The main entry in our Cutting Edge column shows how this relationship, contrary to the apparent monism not to say fideism of Professor Ayala the 2010Templeton Prize winner, is related to a proper understanding of the relationship between science and the spiritual. We are very honoured to have Alister McGrath's hopeful and convincing discernment of a general move in this direction. Yet, like Professor Ayala, he invokes Gould's theory of the "non-overlapping magisteria" of science and religion to suggest that theistic and atheistic philosophy of science are "both entirely reasonable".

Our last editorial discussed this radical separation of science and metaphysics which is so widespread amongst Christian thinkers. We argued that it flows from doggedly maintaining, in the analysis of human knowing, the Greek vision of formality as something static, which emphasis modern science itself has rightly undermined. Our next editorial will consider the effect of all this upon moral debates such as the one mentioned above.

As ever, we will emphasise that our physical bodies have a profound meaning which is rooted in the flesh of Christ, which flesh is our "real food indeed". As Tertullian said, in what regular readers will know is a favourite phrase of ours, "The flesh is the hinge of salvation." █

Faith Magazine

January - February 2011