Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton: Still Reading!

I've finished part two of 'Seven Storey Mountain' and have gotten into part three. It's going to be a difficult task to give a review of this book, since there is so much in it that I could comment on. I'm going to try to just give excerpts and comment on them from time to time as I read. There are things I can relate to and agree with in Merton's story of conversion, and then there are things I definitely disagree with, so reading this book has been a very odd experience, since to me it feels like Merton is being influenced by two separate parties which sometimes coincide with one another and sometimes oppose one another: God and Catholicism; specifically, on one side I see God and Scripture and on the other side I see Catholic philosophy, history, and devotion to 'the Mother of God'. Catholics will see no contradiction between these influences, but going with Merton's own description of entering into the 'wilderness' like the Israelites following Moses, I believe he, like all Christians, encountered the same trials and temptations that the Israelites did and, again like all Christians, succombed to some of them. I would count Merton's devotion to Mary as one of those temptations. Merton is very critical of protestantism in this book and probably considered that protestants have fallen into certain of these temptations too. We are so able to see others' failings, but not our own so easily. If only we could listen to one another humbly, and give exhortation in love, we could learn so much. I wonder what he would say about me, for instance. My book is at home and I'm not, so I'll have to post some excerpts later on and comment on them.


Moonshadow said...

Catholics will see no contradiction between these influences,

That's correct.

Leo said...

"We are so able to see others' failings, but not our own so easily."

You are making an assumption that devotion to Mary is a failing, and that is a false assumption.

Think of it this way. Do you love God less because you have children, or do you love Him more? What if I accused you of taking away glory from God because of your devotion to your children or husband? You would say that I was being ridiculous, and you would be right. Yet, someone without children might easily assume that the children separated you from God rather than improving your relationship with Him.

So too, you are way off base when you are calling our devotion 'a temptation', as if it were something evil. Well, you say, God gave you the children and He gave you to them as their mother. Same thing, except in this case, we are the children.

I think that if you are honest with yourself, you must at least admit that we have what you call a 'Christian faith'. Okay, well we did it with Mary as our Mother given to us by Jesus.

Remember that we did not criticize you for not accepting the role of Mary. In fact, as a Catholic, I am actually warned against even sharing about Mary if there is a realistic chance that it will weaken someone's faith in Jesus.

Consider that perhaps, just maybe, we are not 'succumbing' to any 'temptation', but rather that we are following the will of God.

Jennie said...

We will probably just have to agree to disagree here. What I stated is my opinion based on what I believe, and you are free to disregard it. Nevertheless, I believe it is always a danger to lift up anyone too high beside God. All of us can do this in different ways. For me, deciding to be devoted to Mary would be a great danger to my soul. My opinion is that it is a danger to anyone. I can only judge by what I know. You have to judge for yourself, hopefully based on scripture which is God's only inspired word.

Christine said...

"Scripture is God's only inspired word" is itself not in the Bible. It absolutely is not there. You yourself don't believe that - Jesus HIMSELF is God's inspired Word. The Logos. There was inspired teaching before the New Testament was written. The Bible says we are to hold fast to what we've been taught whether by spoken word or in writing.

Your new blog formatting is really pretty.

Jennie said...

I'm glad you like my blog decor. I looked at Christmas and winter backgrounds, but just loved the 'meadow' background, since it looks so warm and peaceful. And green has always been my favorite color.

As far as Scripture being God's only inspired word: Scripture has been God's only inspired word since the Apostles passed away. No one teaches by perfect inspiration anymore, whether orally or in writing. By 'word' I am speaking of written or oral teaching, not of Jesus Himself, who is the Word of God, and who comes to us in Scripture and in the Spirit. He also comes to us in other believers, whether teachers or lay people, but these are not infallible as Scripture and the Holy Spirit are.
You said that Scripture being God's only inspired word is 'absolutely' not in the Bible. Well, it isn't said in those words, but the whole Scripture is known to be given by inspiration to the prophets and Apostles, and it is the only word that we have now that can say 'the mouth of the LORD has spoken it'. What other written or spoken word do we have that is known to be inspired and infallible? If someone is directly quoting scripture that is God's word, but what else?

Christine said...

"it is the only word that we have now that can say 'the mouth of the LORD has spoken it'."

This teaching is not in scripture, in these words or in any other words. However it does say that the "Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth". And Catholics believe that verse as written. I recognize that you believe my quote from you above, I'm just saying that is isn't in the Bible, that you claim as sole authority (I think).

Jennie said...

I think what 'pillar and ground of the truth' means is that the church both stands upon AND upholds the truth. If she fails to stand upon the truth then she cannot uphold it, and vice versa.

This teaching is not in scripture, in these words or in any other words.

This teaching, that scripture is the only word of which it can be said "the Mouth of the LORD has spoken it", IS scripture. Scripture is the voice of the LORD, so it IS the final authority, outside of any interpretation, even that of the magisterium. The Holy Spirit is able to teach each believer who abides in Christ. Abiding in Christ involves abiding in the word, in fellowship with the body, and in the Spirit. Those things keep us in right relationship with God and give us a right understanding of the truth.