What Is The Point Of Being A Christian

Radcliffe, Timothy OP
Continuum International Publishing Group - Burns & Oates (2005)
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This is a brilliant, densely argued book so the review is correspondingly dense (but not necessarily brilliant!). Significantly, although the most quoted author is Archbishop Rowan Williams, references to "The Church" mean the Roman Catholic Church.

Radcliffe, writes in the tradition of his distinguished Dominican forebear, St. Thomas Aquinas; he is balanced and practical but his lucidity is sometimes betrayed by his refusal to draw the logical conclusions from his arguments.

What is the point of being a Christian? We are no better than anyone else - Jesus came to save those whose lives were in a mess - but we live in a church which should be a place of freedom, courage, joy and hope; without these qualities there is no point Christian money on PR, particularly for the young.

To hope means to be on a journey believing in the triumph of good over evil, the coming of The Kingdom although we don\'t know how this will come about. We have a story to tell in an age of uncertainty and pessimism. We can be free and happy now in the belief that God exists, free in Christ from earthly obsession; at the Last Supper, knowing he was to die, Jesus expressed His freedom through giving himself. Aquinas says that because we are made in God\'s image we are intelligent and free, that virtues are the road to freedom, that rules exist to teach us freedom but the Church is perceived as oppressive. Our real difficulty in exercising freedom is knowing what we want. We should be happy because it is the realisation of our being as God created us for happiness.

To live in freedom we need to overcome fear with courage on our pilgrim journey, including the courage to be patient, even with the Church which should give us confidence to speak out but often does the one specific kind of courage is that of facing death but until we die we are bodily and dualism is a serious threat to a Eucharistic Christianity. Radcliffe rejects the Eros and Agape distinction and says that the Eucharist and human sexuality, in the giving of vulnerable bodies, are sacramentally linked. Trivialising sex makes it recreation or superfluous. The Church\'s teaching on sex is definite and the \'Pastoral solution\' of saying one thing but meaning another is unsatisfactory. At this point Radcliffe pulls away. The key distorting factors in sexuality are fantasy and lust which deny truthfulness. Christians are no more truthful than others but they have a special duty to witness the truth. Transparency is not the answer to contemporary mistrust (perhaps the opposite) but Christianity\'s paradoxical contribution may be to support reason. We need to care for language so that facts are not confused with truth.

There is truth in doctrine which unites the Church. I am because we are and we are, in turn, an earthly community but our ultimate existence lies in being a community of The Kingdom. We only know ourselves through conversation and the humility of surrendering centre stage. We must confront what deforms, destroy false idols and find a shared language in Christ. After a foray into the ethics of private property, Radcliffe returns to his thread. The Church, as a community, ought to delight in difference. The usual defining terms for division - liberal/conservative, left/right, progressive/traditional - are post enlightenment and unhelpful; tentatively he proposes "Kingdom" and "Community"; he charts the breakdown of trust since Vatican II, including Humanae Vitae; but, again, he refuses to take sides. The reason for the turmoil is a disrupted world, what Alvin Toffler famously called Future Shock. The response in the Church has been scandalous silence. This, again not quite convincingly, leads to a discussion of the changing nature of work and the obligator not to Sigmund Bauman. Then we come full circle; the point of being a Christian is that it is true.