Pages

15 March 2011

History and Assumptions

Some time ago, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times penned an opinion piece about misinformation in the mainstream media.  He referred specifically to the rumor -- albeit completely fictitious -- that President Obama's trip to the Indian sub-continent would cost $200 million each day.  Here is Friedman's closing paragraph, full-text:


When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem. It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues — deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate — let alone act on them. Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together. But the carnival barkers that so dominate our public debate today are not going away — and neither is the Internet. All you can hope is that more people will do what Cooper did — so when the next crazy lie races around the world, people’s first instinct will be to doubt it, not repeat it.
I recall this article because I find it to be instructive in matters of historical theology.

All too often, it seems as if a scrap of historical fact which either heavily supports or detracts from a current practice of the Church is quoted and made intractable, indisputable truth.  It is made the axis point upon which an argument for or against a matter of liturgical, moral or systematic theology spins.

Fundamental assumptions are being made when discussing matters of theology and I question whether these assumptions are based in fact or merely what has been previously heard by partakers in one's similar ideology*.  Such assumption-based theology -- heretofore unexamined assumptions -- not only weaken the quality of theological debate, but also weaken the substratum of dialectical theology.

In other words, I worry that theology mirrors more and more the careless debates of politics.

As my father told me, remember what happens when you assume.

*Make no mistake, "conservatives," "liberals" and everyone in between can be guilty of this.  Heck, I find myself condemning myself by thinking these very thoughts.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Any examples in the theological realm?

mtjofmcap said...

I want to be careful for the sake of charity here.

But ... off the top of my head...

I think when we speak about the reform of the liturgy in either direction, you will very often hear something to the effect ...

So and so group used to do this, so it was present in the liturgy for this long ...

Or ...

In antiquity, the Church allowed/didn't allow such ...

Or ...

The reason we did thing "X" is because of reason, "Y," thus we should eliminate "x" because "y" no longer obtains.

Does this help?

Brother Charles said...

This is why the Holy Spirit has given us Sacred Scripture, ecumenical councils, bishops in union with the successor of St. Peter, and doctors of the Church.

Assertions from other directions should always be examined with care.

Anonymous said...

Oh Constantine, look how silly you have made these Catholics.

Brother Charles said...

Also, when it comes to liturgy, there's a lot of antiquarianism and 'golden age-ism' that gets into the conversation, e.g.the liturgy was the way it was supposed to be in 1962, or prior to the revised rites of Holy Week in 1955, or at the publication of the Missal of Pius V in 1570, or at the time of the Ordo Romanus Primus, or at the time of St. Paul, etc.

Of course, when it comes to this behavior, folks on all sides like to pick and choose what suits them, which reveals the trouble at the root of the whole behavior.