Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Body Worlds Horror

Neda Ulaby of NPR discusses the controversy over the Body Worlds exhibits in science museums around the country. Note also this story about the pregnant woman display. LifeSite also discusses it. The exhibit is currently "on display" here at the Museum of Natural Science in Houston. ... what Bill said...

I remember my fascination when a close doctor friend of mine took me to the cadaver room of the medical school he was attending at the time -- after the students had finished their dissection of the bodies. Aside from the remains of the corpses, do you know what filled the room? Bouquets of roses and assortments of flowers, thank-you cards, lengthy letters written by the medical students themselves to honor the dignity of the lives of those who had donated their bodies so that they could learn. The remains would then be later deposited in a respectful way, not put on public display for money. Quite different from what I see here -- bodies of questionable origin, put on public display and posed in ridiculous forms, as folks pay thousands of dollars to have a look before they go about their lives. No respect. No honor. It is honorable to show respect to the dead and to the remains of the dead, and it is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Is Dogma So Constraining?

Not at all! Dogma is progressive.

In its moral relativism, the culture in which we live despises the notion of religious dogma. Those of us who happen to profess dogma are labeled as closed-minded buffoons who are incapable of real thought and honest inquiry. For those who have no desire to learn or strive to believe anything, or develop a real, working understanding of their religious faith, this might be true. But the actual principle of dogma is nothing of the sort!

Dogma is actually a progressive method. It enables progressive thought. If human beings have any hope of growing or evolving in any way in the pursuit of truth, we have to be dogmatic about things - in fact, it's inherent in our brains that this is so. And so one isn't so shocked to find that all real, academic disciplines, including mathematics, philosophy, and all fields of science, are dogmatic by nature. It allows one to build upon the proven conclusions of one's predecessors... to ask, learn, and teach succeeding generations to enable them to go even further.

Dogma is healthy to a thinking brain. It is essential to real education. The great Catholic intellectual G.K. Chesterton summed it up best in Ch.4 of What's Wrong With the World:
It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.
And so why shouldn't Christ's Church also employ dogma to teach succeeding generations important truths about God? In paragraph 89, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.
In our case, the Church's proven conclusions are actually fruits of the Spirit that allow Christians of succeeding generations to better understand the fullness of God's revelation given in the person of Jesus Christ. God does this because left by ourselves, we would merely screw everything up and prevent others from understanding Him. Thus, we can understand things and speak about God today in ways that were very difficult for earlier Christian communities to grasp and articulate -- yet what we know today is organically rooted in what they were given by Christ. This is because real learning builds on itself. If every generation had to start from scratch, where would we be? Dogma therefore elucidates truth.

It may be, as the Catechism implies, that those who say that dogma only obscures truth merely don't like what it is that dogma actually brings to light -- namely that Christianity is more than just a shallow, flighty "I'm okay, you're okay" emotionalism. That we are indeed a sinful people who are called to reject sin, repent, and walk rightly with God and each other in a REAL relationship. But these same dogmas also teach us that God loves us, is merciful with us, and freely gives us everything we need to know Him, love Him, and walk uprightly with Him.


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