We will hear more about where faithful adherence to the Church's dogma takes us in contemplation in Part IV.Tradition and Revolution (cont'd.)The notion of dogma terrifies men who do not understand the Church. They cannot conceive that a religious doctrine may be clothed in a clear, definite and authoritative statement without at once becoming static, rigid and inert and losing all its vitality. In their frantic anxiety to escape from any such conception they take refuge in a system of beliefs that is vague and fluid, a system in which truths pass like mists and waver and vary like shadows. They make their own personal selection of ghosts, in this pale, indefinite twilight of the mind. They take good care never to bring these abstractions out into the full brightness of the sun for fear of a full view of their unsubstantiality.
They favor the Catholic mystics with a sort of sympathetic regard, for they believe that these rare men somehow reached the summit of contemplation in defiance of Catholic dogma. Their deep union with God is supposed to have been an escape from the teaching authority of the Church, and an implicit protest against it.
But the truth is that the saints arrived at the deepest and most vital and also the most individual and personal knowledge of God precisely because of the church's teaching authority, precisely through the tradition that it is guarded and fostered by that authority.New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Tradition and Revolution III
Continuing the essay, Merton takes on the issue of dogma, both in what men think it to be and what it actually is. What he says was doubtless true when the book was written in 1961 but we see his insight even more from the distance of where relativism has moved us almost 50 years hence. (Part I is here.)