Dr. Peter Kreeft – The Role of the Laity in the Culture

This was sponsored by the St. Charles Group, a portion of Morgan Stanley that only invests in line with Catholic morals, and took place at the Catholic Student Center, Washington University in St. Louis, this evening at 7 pm. The room is packed – awesome!

Hector Molina is the MC and is laying a foundation for Kreeft’s talk. Tonight is an example of the new evangelization, as called for by the soon to be Blessed John Paul II, of happy memory.

Dr. Kreeft is the author of over 70 books, became Catholic during college. The pivotal point was the claim of the Catholic Church to be the one Church founded by Christ.

Now for Peter Kreeft…

Can’t figure out why he, an absent-minded philosophy professor, to give this talk … he’s singularly unqualified. A philosopher is a blind man trying to find a black cat in a dark mine that’s not there. His own definition is a philosopher who, after he dies, when given a choice between going to heaven or a lecture about heaven, chooses the lecture.

He’s thankful that we assigned him a topic. His whole talk will consist of only two words … “almost everything”.

To talk about the “role of the laity in the culture” is like talking about the “role of the players on a baseball team”.

The correct translation for the title of the Pope is “Slaves of the slaves of God”!

The awesome responsibilities for being the Church … we are the Body of Christ. Us?!? A casual look seems to show no evidence that this is the case.

One of the images in Scripture is as an arc, as in Noah’s Ark. What did the inside of the ark probably smell like?

Well, there’s a lot of mess in the actual, real live flesh and blood, Church. It’s messy, bloody, business.

What is the business of the Church? Some think it’s a

  • super social worker, or a
  • super wise people, or
  • super spiritual politicians, or … (many, many ideas)

A corollary, is what is the business of the Messiah? Many thought the Messiah would deliver Israel from the political mess they were in. Others thought poverty, still others …

Why wasn’t God more clear about these? Because God is a good teacher (like Socrates), so he didn’t tell us everything. He tested us.

But what, in fact, did Jesus do? He saved his people (us) from their sins.

If our heart is close to God, then we will recognize that Jesus saves us from our sins. Simple saints, like Bl. Mother Teresa without a theological training, more profoundly understand the truth of the Scriptures.

The laity’s business is the Church’s business, the Church’s business is Christ’s business … and that’s to save us from our sins. He’s no absentee landlord.

Part of saving us from our sins is he motivates us to do good works, the other part of salvation. Salvations, starts of course, with faith.

Faith, hope, and charity are like multiple roots of the same plant … they all support the same thing, our salvation.

The fundamental choice we make as Catholics … I give the whole of myself to the whole of yourself, Jesus. If you haven’t done this get out … you’re not doing your business.

Sometimes our Protestant brothers and sisters understand that better than Catholics … our whole faith is begins and ends with Christo-centricism.

Many of his students are Catholic, or they think they’re Catholic … although they’re probably Hindu-pantheists (I think he’s only sort of kidding).

Kreeft thinks that God is probably not going to restore our unity with our brothers and sisters until Catholics know Christ better than they do.

The old battle lines are not there anymore … large numbers of people are moving in and out of the Church.

Mark Noll … “The Reformation is over”. A bit of an exaggeration, but a minor miracle has occurred … we now agree, in essence, on justification.  That is “The Decree on Justification” has been agreed to by many Lutherans, Anglicans, and more … this was the central tenet of much of the Reformation (theologically speaking). Wow. The lay version is ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together).

This is based on breadth in both the meaning of salvation and faith.

Luther used faith in the deep sense of the word, and salvation in the small sense of the word. The Catholic Church was using faith in a narrower sense, and salvation in a larger sense.

Both sides suddenly realized this in the past 50 years and did the modern short act of contrition … “oops”.

Hmmm … so both sides were right, in a sense.

An aside: he thinks he’s a better philosopher because he’s not smart enough to do complexity, so he does simplicities.

On his journey into the Catholic Church Kreeft was astonished by the Eucharistic … not a single, non-heretical Christian denied the Real Presence, in the whole history of the Church. Nobody.

This is the central issue, period. How is God going to solve this one?

The Role of the Laity in the World.

The main role of the laity in the world is to be in the world but not of the world. Do good work … not just good works, but good work. Doubts if badly made tables ever came out of Jesus’ carpenter shop.

This is the first responsibility of each of us … we must start by being good at our role in the world.

Maximum truth, goodness, and happiness is the best selling tool to the world … the essence of evangelization.

What was it that converted the world? Was it the logical aspects of the faith? NO. Was it art etc? NO, those came later. Well, what was it? Saints, plain and simple. Martyrs. Actual blood and flesh Christians, living lives of grace, truth, and beauty. The different way they lived their lives, the radical, different, crazy kind of love that can only come from Jesus Christ … that’s what converted the world.

Think of Christ as he carried the Cross … “see Mother, I make all things new”.

When we are truly converted, and this meets the truly decadent culture in which we now live, the same thing will inevitability follow … the world will be converted.

At the heart of the culture war is sex … the sexual revolution. That’s the elephant in the living room.

Two proofs:

The Catholic Church is the only institution in the world that prohibits divorce.

We don’t lynch blacks anymore, we don’t kill Jews … but we are more cruel to one class of humans – our own unborn – than any other society in the history of the world.

How did Fr. Scanlan single-handedly turn around Franciscan University. First step, you’re going to live differently … daily Mass, adoration, etc etc. Half the students said they would leave and he said “fine”. Then good things followed. Amen.

The Theology of the Body explains Humanae Vitae, and gives a whole explanation of human life and applies it to the second most holy thing in the world … a woman’s body. The holiest thing in the world is the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist God re-enters a world, in a woman’s body God re-enters the world as Creator.

The tide is turning … this really is the new springtime of the Church!

This is not wholly, but largely a development of the laity. We are becoming adults in Christ.

It used to be said that all the laity had to do was “pray, pay, and obey”. Actually that’s pretty accurate, not bad at all. Ie “pray, sacrifice, and obey”.

What is a saint? Somebody who says with his whole mind, body, and soul … “thy will be done”. That’s obedience.

The Church has died many times in its history and been buried, but she’s not dead yet … and won’t be!

Questions and Answers.

Q: Can you connect the sexual revolution with the “enlightenment project”. As in control, trick nature? I.e. Kurzwel and his “eat whatever you want” pill.

A. The enlightenment program is looking at nature as an object for conquest. Kurzweil advocates post-humans, for example. This is the same thing for contraception, abortion.

Q: Jerome says that we should build our culture, but laws etc. are being made that are hostile to the faith. Why aren’t we speaking out?

A: Because we believe the pop psychologists that we shouldn’t offend people. Let’s move to the lower east side and learn how to agitate.

Q: Some, like the Marian movement, think that a chastisement is upcoming.

A: We have to always be prepared for that eventuality, BUT we can’t ever give up on the culture. God is merciful. Eg the vision of Pope St. Leo XIII, which resulted in the “St. Michael’s Prayer”, a real gift to the Church. He had a vision that Satan chose the 20th century to do his most heinous work.

Q: Should we oppose the insurability of abortion, contraception, etc?

A: Absolutely. Would we stand by if our insurance company financed the gassing of Jews? Btw, the company who manufactured the gas in Hitler’s gas chambers is the manufactures of RU-486.

Q: What do we do about “the lost generation”?

A: What we’re doing already – fixing things up, patching where we can, be blunt and frank when necessary. If we’re a Christian then we’re going to occasionally tick some people off, and if we don’t then we’re not close enough to the Cross. No compromise. Period.

Q: How much should we confront the world, and how much should we protect our family?

A: Both, it’s not either or, it’s like offense and defense. You absolutely need both. Souls are what at stake. The devil is interested in corrupting culture, but only so far as it’s useful in snaring souls. That is the most important. We need to defend American culture, western civilization, and forth, but only so much as it impacts the fates of souls.

Q: What about the feeble numbers at PSR, from families who don’t care?

A: Two principles. 1) People are far more important than we think, and 2) Numbers are far less important than we think. How many did Jesus teach? Gideon? Aside: note that philosophers are good at principles, but not very good at solving actual problems.

We need to keep the principles of transcendence and imminence. God perfectly reconciles both.

Q: Is there an important role in the new generations of the Church to help it discover itself?

A: When Bl JP2 called for a new evangelization, he meant every word of it. We need a new presentation of the same Gospel.

Q: Why don’t we confront the culture even in our parishes, eg in the petitions?

A: Well suppose we did speak truth at homilies, suppose we did have direct petitions … what would happen? Well some people would get mad and leave. That’s ok, that’s definitely ok. Are we doing Jesus’ work?

Q: Is the growth of some Islamic cultures a threat to us?

A: Not as much as the rot from within. The enemy without is honest – they hate us and are open about it. The enemy within is dishonest, and capable of far worse. Europe will be Muslim in a couple of generations, because Christians are wimps who aren’t having kids and Muslims are. If this happens then they deserve it. (good point).

Q: How do we convince erudite skeptics of actual, Catholic truth?

A: Our first job is not to persuade people, but we must announce it. Second, use every means we can to convince people that what we say in #1 is true. Then make sure that they understand that if they don’t agree with the Church then they’re not Catholics … they may be pop psychologists, but they’re not Catholics. We must start, continue, and always stick with the truth. We don’t have to rely on our own opinions, we always have Mother Church upon which we can, and must rely.

This is a blast. Imagine the idea of a “rock star philosopher” … makes me giggle, but is nonetheless cool.

Dr. Peter Kreeft – The Role of the Laity in the Culture

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