Who Does the Father's Will?

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Who better does the Father's will--the one who knows all manner of doctrine and all the subtlety thereof and who can explain it and argue its fine points with other and who completely assents to it, but lives a life in direct contradiction to every one of its tenets?


The person completely ignorant of doctrine, unable to discern or explain the divine hypostatic union, completely unaware of predestination and justification, unable to make an intelligible statement about doctrine, who yet lives it to the hilt--feeding the hungry and giving to the poor?

Too much knowledge stuffs the head and the ego--it fills us not with knowledge of the Divine, but with knowledge of our own self-importance. Knowledge stored in the head but never acted upon is less than useless. And action in complete ignorance of the whys and wherefores, the rules and the statutes governing it, that action which is within God's will is the action of love, the action of the saving Christ, shown in a way no words will every tell.

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And yet, the person completely ignorant of doctrine is no better off, for the doctrine of feeding the hungry and giving to the poor is in itself a doctrine. We cannot say,or even guess, for God is the judge in absence of a specific command or prohibition, that those who do the work of Christ without specifically following the command of Christ thus find salvation.

To say that those who are hungry and poor are simply physically hungry and economically poor is to take the word of the Lord too basically, at one level only. Spiritual hunger and paucity do greater damage, and those are to be found among the wealthy and the poor.

There is no such thing as too much knowledge, only knowledge misdirected to false ends. Just as there is no such thing as too much spousal love - only misdirected. True, the more one learns, the more one must have care that one does not begin to seek knowledge for its own sake. Thus, I would be hesitant to say that St. Thomas Aquinas pursued knowledge to the wrong ends any more than St. Francis, though St. Thomas was clearly better educated and ministered to an entirely different group than St. Francis.

Do not mistake me - there exists both evil knowledge and evil ends - but the man who seeks doctrine in order to explain it to others and seek a personal better understanding of Christ has not erred.


That "Recent Entries" menu box juts out into whatever text appears next to it and obliterates words. Can that be fixed?

The danger you present in this topic seems to me to be a possible pitfall mainly for Catholics. I don't think that Protestants are nearly so apt to be spending huge amounts of time on the rote learning of orthodoxy. Given an equally devout Catholic and Protestant, my guess is that the Protestant spends relatively less time on study and ritual and more time doing good works in his community: Orthodoxy vs. orthopraxis. You've been in both camps; what do you think about that?

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you so much for writing, I will try to disagree politely, but I will admit to feeling weary, tired, sorrowful, worn-out, and much misused. So please forgive the ranting.

Feeding the poor is not a doctrine, it is a duty, and it is a duty that requires no doctrine to understand it as our responsibility. The man who seeks doctrine, more often than not misses Christ entirely for the pursuit of doctrine. The proper end is to seek Christ, all doctrine that is needed flows directly from knowing Him. The end of doctrine is doctrine. The end of Christ is life eternal.

Dear Rob,

Sorry about the recent entries bar. It works fine in some browsers on some machines. I've tried various ways of fixing it but to no avail.

To start, I don't think very many Catholics spend much time in the rote learning of Orthodoxy either. And from what I've seen, Protestants suffer in just about the same proportion from the problem I've laid out here. I'm afraid that the protestants I know are every bit as bound up in doctrine as are the Catholics and Orthodox. And their doctrine has the additional problem of being merely reactive (a Reformation must reform something) and so, because they tend not to study the origins of their doctrines, their doctrines tend to take them further and further astray. We get Calvinists v. Arminians, we get New Episcopalians suddenly discovering doctrines that bless same sex marriages. Doctrine is an obsession that comes with all religions as soon as our eyes are taken off of the Goal--God Himself. Doctrine is vapor and mist, more often obscuring than helping.

How many times have I been at the receiving end of a "Do you know Christ as your personal savior lecture?" from some young, earnest, faithful Evangelical. How often have I heard the diatribe spill out from the lips of Lutherans and Methodists about consubstantiation and other matters that no one can prove or really understand short of heaven? Protestants have filled the air with as many or more versions of theologies than the Church has ever dreamed of. And I don't see them doing all that much more in the community. In many Calvinist congregations there is still the ghostly remnant of divine disapproval as the source of sorrow--you are not among the chosen and so your lot is hard. In short, there are darn few saints anywhere you look, but a whole lot of people who are willing to tell others how to live their lives, while not doing it themselves.

And I discover more and more recently that doctrine has so led me astray in my pursuit of Jesus that I have neither time nor energy for it. Theology is invented to keep otherwise unoccupied people busy with something to do and think about. And as a matter to think about it is certainly worthy and worthwhile, particularly when compared to the world of other things that one could think about. But for most it is a pernicious distraction from the reality of Jesus Christ, His life, teaching, death, and glorious resurrection.

I believe the Doctrine of the Catholic Church not because of all the reasoning of the theologians, but because time after time after time, it has held true in the ordinary events of the day. The things I have witnessed and have done have shown me the truth of the doctrine. And the doctrine that is not demonstrated is not particularly germane to living. I can believe in a Holy Trinity without proof because I have seen the proof of other doctrines. But a theologian working from first principles could not demonstrate the truth of the Doctrine--no more can they demonstrate the truth of most of their doctrines.

And some of these doctrines are pernicious, vile, and unacceptable.

Who does the Father's work, the one who sits at home and tells you why the work is necessary and how best to do the work, or the one who goes out and does it? Thought about God is a good thing, theology as a practice is useless to me and to the majority of Christians who live in the real world.

Any system of reasoning that can support and endorse the horrors I have witnessed in my brief lifetime is flawed beyond redemption. Theology is not necessary to know God, only God is necessary. It sometimes seems to me that the work of the theologian is to stand in the way of revelation and make it far more difficult for anyone to see clearly.

Does Rahner deny the divine presence? Who cares? Does Balthasar convincingly argue that all may be saved? What does it matter? Does the Jesus tell us, "Whatsoever you do unto one of these the least of my children, that you do unto me?" If so, a lot of us are in a heckuva a lot of trouble. I'll take His word over that of any theologian at any time in the History of the world. And yet, there seem to be many who would take the theologians before the Lord. I don't know if that is true, but it is the perception I have developed.

Oh, I'm tired of it, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Unitarian--all of it. I'm sure I'll be corrected by any number of would-be theologians--but I'll take the teaching of the Church, which I accept in its full because of its ever present, tangible reality--I will even accept that dreamed up by the theologians on the basis of the reality of the rest, but I have no time for theological speculations and ideation. It distracts me from the one thing necessary.

That said, I will acknowledge that for others it may be exactly the one things necessary. And I will apologize for the vehemence of this. I don't know what provokes it except perhaps the horrible conjunction of one of the most shining moments in human history--where we start to learn of Jesus, and one of the most horrendous--where stuffed with arrogant hubris we initiated what could easily ahve been, and might still be, the beginning of the End.



Thank you for the lengthy response. If one were to boil down all that you've expressed here, it seems to come down to: John 2:5 His mother said to the servants "Do whatever he tells you to do." So, you need a bible and a willingness to serve.
The eager young evangelical who insists on witnessing to those who feel they don't need it may be annoying, but is perhaps being obedient.
The man who asks whether bourgeois values are really in line with Christian values may be raising a practical question that is better answered by the Gospels than by the Schools, or by those who answer practical questions with philosophical abstractions concocted by men with too much time on their hands and a need to justify their own existences.

Dear Rob,

Thank you for reading around the diatribe and rant and finding something there worthy of extraction. While I may disagree in shading, I think, in the main, I agree with your condensation.

As I see it, for some at least, the clarity that Theology and Philosophy can bring to things is far outweighed by the harm that comes from the obfuscation it may also bring.

or by those who answer practical questions with philosophical abstractions concocted by men with too much time on their hands and a need to justify their own existences.

While I admit that I probably said something like this, it is unduly harsh and I retract most particularly the last part "too much time on their hands. . ."

My position is indefensible--I'm living in a very fragile glass house that the merest breath could cause to fly apart. But I think more harm is done by those who think they can "do" theology and philosophy than good is done in their pursuit of God. There are those who are both intellectually and vocationally inclined to this pursuit--but I strongly believe that most of humankind would be better off if they kept their speculations to themselves and allowed the rest of us the peace of mind that comes with doing what need be done in the constant and unwavering light of God's grace and love.

Anyway, thank you for the kindness of your careful reading and my apology for going on so long. I suppose my only excuse is sheer weariness.



Dear Steven,

This comment, The man who seeks doctrine, more often than not misses Christ entirely for the pursuit of doctrine, indicates to me that rather than disagreeing politely, you and I agree. Note that I said that one who pursues knowledge may in fact do the work of Christ, but only if properly directed to that end. We may differ as to percent of those who do, in fact, misdirect, but perhaps that is due to our stations in life and experiences.


Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for taking the time to read my response more carefully than I read your initial comment. And, in fact, we may not be that far apart with regard to how many are misled--despite my repudiation of the field, I must admit to its importance for some. As I said to Rob above, my positin is indefensible, and yet I hold it nevertheless. Theology and theological speculation is not for everyone--it is probably not for very many. And those who think they can do it but do not have the faculties may come to harm through it.

Thanks for writing.



Not all men who "do theology" do it for lack of anything better to do, or with a "publish or perish" mindset. I didn't mean to imply that, and I'm sure that you didn't either. Your basic point is well taken, however. I always go away with something I can use when we exchange words. Thank you for being forthright.

Dear Rob,

I didn't mean to imply that, and I'm sure that you didn't either.

I don't think you did imply it; however, I may well have done so. And you are absolutely correct, it is not what I meant and it is not the conclusion I want everyone to draw. Thank you for giving me the chance to clarify and to step back from my sometimes breathtaking overgeneralizations.

And yes, I too profit greatly through all of our interchanges. I come away from them sometimes bemused, but always with the feeling that there was purpose and value in having had the conversation. Thank you.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 6, 2006 8:52 PM.

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