Saturday, June 13, 2009

Faith, natural and supernatural

Dear Lazy Disciple,
in your comments to a previous post, you asked me some tough questions.

In speaking about faith, my main concern was to remove Christian faith from the isolation in which it has been thrown by a pseudo philosophy become average cultura in the West. So I recalled the latin use of fides on the background of the Christian one.

But you asked me: what about this, i.e. supernatural faith.

In speaking of the "supernatural" I can't but resort to the "natural".

We essencially style as "supernatural" an experience of grace, gratia.

Again a latin word of pre-Christian usage: "gracious" it is said what has no motivation outside of itself, that for which we can give no further reasons.

For any married man or woman, I can give the example of the love that ties them to their mate. The question "why does she or he loves me?" ha no answer. It's pure grace, something that happened between us.

It's gratuituous.

That's what we experience when we feel taken in by a higher grace, shining in all tings and embracing them: which the tradition called supernatural.

Faith is the personal answer to a personal grace.

It is, in S. Plaul's definition (on which Pope Benedict reflected in his last encyclical, Spe Salvi), "substantia rerum sperandarum, et argumentum non apparentium": that which makes for hope, we could say, and allows to look beyond appearances. Or again: it's the certainty in the deapth of our being of having been unconditionally loved.

Love is fertile, it's what makes life enduring through generations. So it shapes out character, making us trustful, "faithful". Within limits: the exclusive sphere of grace where we all enjoy the credit of friends.

It is natural therefore to "love friends" and "hate enemies". But someone said: "love your enemies like your friends". And went on to show what it means.

It is a word of infinite grace: don't be afraid of death, life endures beyond all limits.

That is supernatural: a sphere of grace, a kingdom that no worldly kingdom can exaust.

But the supernatural wouldn't be such if didn't make us capable of crossing all borders: which means, capable of recognizing what is natural, the meaning of grace and faith everywhere. If it weren't so, even that word would have been just another natural word.

That's why I insist so much on the latin use of fides. In Christianity it was developped the notion of natural law, previously drafted in Greek philosophy and Roman jurisprudence. Not excluding faith, but starting from faith. Roman jurists in particular required bonam fidem for the validity of contracts. In general terms this meant recognizing in fides the ground of any communication, that which makes the difference between possible enemies (hostes) and possible guests (hospites). To call this "natural", is to say that it is so among men everywhere, at least in their group of belonging. Christianity universalized the notion in the investigation of what constitutes justice among men, whenever they happen to enter in communication.

We should say this to president Obama (if we ever had a chance, and he cared to listen). That we could be able to communicate with Muslims not because of what the three "monotheist" faiths share, but just because they are men. As are so the Hindus, the Buddhists or whomever. But perhaps he knows it well, and that's why he plays with them his rhetorical games.

The question is: what happens to "good faith", when there is suspect of dissimulation?

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