Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's Your Trigger?

I recently finished a book called “By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition” written by Mark Shea. Mark even signed it for me over at one of his favorite places and mine, Marytown. The book made me think of “triggers”.

NO, not this Trigger!!!

Some background explanation would be helpful:
I deal with some complex problem solving (troubleshooting) for a living. To do this effectively one needs to be very cognizant of what is fact vs. what is opinion vs. what is an assumption; an awareness of what mental “lens” you are viewing a problem through is needed because we all see things through filters. This is not a bad thing as long as you are aware of the filters.

Once a seemly complex problem is separated & clarified into manageable items, you can ask a simple question which can eventually lead you to the root of things. Ask “What’s your trigger?” In other words, what are you experiencing that tells you there is a problem?
This is what I'm talking about.
Everyday Examples:
Ø  Someone says, “I have a problem. My car is out of alignment.”
Question: What’s your trigger? What are you experiencing that tells you your car is out of alignment?
Answer: While driving, the car pulls to the left.
There are different things that can cause a car to pull to one side, like low tire pressure on one side for example. Being “out of alignment” is actually an assumption which could be true or false. You’ve heard of jumping to conclusions; where I work, this would be called a “jump-to-cause”
Ø  Someone says, “I have a burned-out light bulb.”
Question: What’s your trigger? What are you experiencing that tells you there is a burned out light bulb?

Answer: I turn on the light switch and there is no light.

There are different things that can cause a light not to turn on other than a burnt bulb.  A brunt out bulb is another assumption or jump-to-cause.

Understanding triggers also helps with evangelization.
Religious Examples:
Ø  Someone says, “The Catholic Church hates gay people.”
Question: What’s your trigger? What are you experiencing that tells you the Catholic Church hates gay people?

Answer: They are against same-sex marriage and that’s just mean.

An informed person will know that the Church defining marriage as one man & one woman has nothing to do with hating anyone, but has everything to do with marriage being something permanent, unitive, mutually exclusive AND PROCREATIVE.

Ø  Someone says, “Catholics worship statues.”
Question: What’s your trigger? What are you experiencing that tells you Catholics worship statues?

Answer: I saw a Catholic kneeling in front of a statue.
Though kneeling is used as a posture in worship, not all kneeling is worship; it can just be an indication of respect.
So what does any of this have to do with an Evangelical Christian discovering Catholic Sacred Tradition? The author of the book was an Evangelical Christian (now Catholic) when he came across the teachings of the some modernist Christians (i.e. The Jesus Seminar) who taught things like:

Ø  The miracles of the Jesus (walking on water, multiplication of loaves/fish, the resurrection, etc.) are not to be taken literally, they are parables told in dramatic form to make a spiritual point.
Ø  St. Paul’s self-loathing, self-criticism, and his sense of being controlled by something he had no power to change could only be explained by the fact that he was a homosexual in denial of the truth.
Ø  Mary giving birth as a virgin is a false tradition. In fact, it was probably made-up by the early Christians to cover-up a rape or some other unthinkable scandal.
Ø  The canon of scripture is another false human tradition that left out many good writings like the Gospel of Thomas, the Didache and the epistles of Barnabas & Ignatius, just to name a few.

Meet the Modernists
Of course, a good Evangelical Christian will be prepared to defend “true” Bible Christianity, inspired by 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The first three points above can be argued, more or less, using the Bible ALONE, but the fourth point poses a serious problem to which we can ask our question, “What’s your trigger?” or “What are you experiencing that tells you there is a problem?”

Instructions for canon NOT found.
The trigger for this case is the fact that the Bible is not self-attesting to its own canon. Why exactly would a non-Catholic Christian accept the present canon of biblical books as something other than human tradition?  As the author states in his book, without a clear answer to this question a “purely biblical argument for Christianity was a series of neatly fashioned logic links attached to a hook hanging on a nail hammered firmly into…nothing.”
Beyond the canon of scripture there are other doctrines firmly held by non-Catholic Christians that are not explicitly found in the Bible. Marriage should be defined as one man and one woman, right? You may be surprised to learn that there is nothing in scripture that says a man cannot have more than one wife. In fact, when this question was posed to Martin Luther he said, “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife, he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God”.
How about the doctrine of the Trinity? There are plenty of verses in scripture that seem to hint that Jesus is NOT God, and the Holy Spirit could be seen as just an allegory for power of God, NOT an actual third person. The author flashed back to a Christian radio talk show he once heard where a caller was giving the host good Arian-type arguments that say Jesus was not God. After a lot of back and forth with various scripture verses, the radio host basically fell back on an interpretive Christian tradition as the final authority, saying that the caller’s interpretation is not consistent with Christian history. After all, how could twenty centuries of an interpretive tradition be wrong, and the caller’s interpretation be right?
As mentioned, we view reality through mental lenses or filters which is natural and not a big obstacle as long as we have an awareness of them. As we have seen, non-Catholic Christians can be so focused on the Bible that they forget all about the interpretive lens through which they read the Bible. As Catholics, we can be so out of touch with our own faith that selfishness, secularism and politics become our interpretive lens.
Thinking about triggers can also help clarify the circumstances involving non-practicing Catholics. They’re not practicing for a reason because every effect has a cause. Whether it’s something specific like a divorce or bad childhood experience, or something general like the “Don’t Know, Don’t Care” church policy. Once you know the triggers, you can start working on the answers.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from the end of the book which has some striking & beautiful imagery about the fullness of the Catholic faith:
“I found my little kernel of Bible-only wheat, once dead, put down roots as deep as the whole of Sacred Tradition and grew up under the towering sky of Catholic light into a Christian faith far stronger, greener, and more fruitful than ever before – and one more rooted in inspired scripture than it ever was.”

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