Ontogeny in Faith--A Cause for Hope

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Analysis might suggest that society has undergone an ontogeny in faith similar to the development of the individual with respect to his or her relationship with a parent. More succinctly stated, the relationship of God the Father to humanity has changed through time, not because God has changed, but because humankind has undergone a maturation which leaves us, at the present time somewhere in the stage of middle adolescence.

The ontogeny of society with respect to faith began in the infancy of the spread of the Gospel through Israel and to parts beyond. As with most infants, growth was rapid, indeed prodigious, and resulted in a few growing pains--commonly known as heresies.

Through the post-apostolic period, up through the reformation, we can see the development of faith in the stages of childhood--a rocky toddler, learning to stand and walk, gradually coming into his or her own and exercising a kind of power. But all through this time, a dead-level certainty in the wisdom, power, and deep love of our Father. Never any doubt as to His love for us, but rather some questions about what form that takes and what exactly obedience to that might entail.

With the Reformation, we begin the outright rebellion correlative to the teen years. There is a questioning and a refutation of all power figures, because indeed the flaws in the figures are exposed for all to see. Simony, the selling of indulgences, and other figures of a Church gone awry in parts, are all too present blemishes on the facade. So rather than rejecting the blemishes, humankind rejects the entire authority figure, and with it, the idea of God that was implicit in the figure.

With the Reformation, doubt about God's abiding love surfaces. First it makes its appearance in the puritan's fear of the world, then with Quietism, Jansenism, and Deism. (That's probably out of chronological sequence, but you get the drift.)

Present day, it seems we're in the height of the teen rebellion years when the Father (God) and Mother (Church) figures are so stupid as to cause astonishment that they have survived at all to this point. Everything they have said or have to say is immediately suspect because they have said it. There is every possible infraction of every possible rule. We've moved from the Divine Chain of Being to the autonomy of the individual. In this stage humanity shows its indestructibility and arrogance as it stumbles from one disaster or near-miss to another.

This gives cause for hope. There is a saying (I can't find the attribution at the moment) regarding the fact that at 15 I couldn't believe how stupid my parents were, by the time I was twenty-one it was amazing to me how intelligent they had become. So one can hope with respect to the maturation of society. Surely there are no signs of it as yet, but then, when do the "signs" of the maturation of a teenager actually "set-in." Is it not the case that the teen gradually moves out of rebellion and into accord with the manner of his or her upbringing (assuming that it was not abusive) almost completely silently? One day you turn around and discover that this child who had spent ten years making life sheer hell has suddenly agreed with you. (I know it was true for me as a teenager and young adult.)

There may be no signs and symptoms that are readily recognizable. But we have the absolute certainty, the perfect assurance that "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

What does this mean to the Catholic practicing today? Do not abandon hope! Live as example of one faithful to the Father and to the goodness of the Church. Don't preach, don't rail, don't despair, don't fret. All of these things make for ugly siblings. Rather, live in the joy of the Lord, thank God daily for things as they are and pray that they may become ever more as He would have them be, and then live to make it so. Remember the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila

Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing; God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.

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Great post Steven, and good cause for hope. Maturation won't come without effort, of course-- how many 40-something teenagers do we all know? But a youthful maturity could be just around the bend with the right attitudes and effort.

Great post Steven.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 30, 2006 9:35 AM.

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