Hypothetical Lesson from the Apostles’ Creed to Pagans—by Cameron Daly

When you figure you should stick to pastoral or practical topics (as opposed to in-depth theological ones) in your Mission and Evangelization class … but then you go ahead and decide to write this.

Following is a discussion post for my Mission and Evangelization class, preceded by the discussion prompt. My teacher’s response seems to indicate it came out well enough!

Prompt:

In his article, “Saint Paul Offers Five Ways of Dialogue and Mission,” Fr. Mariasusai Dhavamony, S.J., shows how Saint Paul refers “to the various religions in different ways…to the Hebrews in the Synagogue of Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13, 15-41); to the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers of Athens (Acts 17, 18-31); to the followers of Cosmic polytheism of Lystra (Acts 14, 11-18); to the Gnostics of Asia Minor (Eph, Col); and to the polytheist and ambiguous cults of Corinth (I Cor 10, 19-22).”

After reading and reflecting upon Fr. Dhavamony’s article, select one of the twelve articles from the Apostles’ Creed. Next, present it as if you were addressing one of the groups to which Saint Paul refers in contemporary society. What would you say? Which method, or necessary tool of missionary spirituality, would you use in your evangelization?

My post:

“[Jesus Christ] was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary” taught to the followers of Cosmic polytheism of Lystra

There is a distinct difference between what you believe to be gods and what I believe to be God. I mean no disrespect when I say this, but by my standards of the divine, the “gods” that you believe in are no more than creatures themselves.

I think that a perfect demonstration of this can be given in how you hold that these gods reproduce with humans. When this happens, what are the offspring? Individuals that you refer to as demigods, because they are half-god and half-man. This goes to show that the gods exist on the same level as the humans they’re reproducing with—because the two natures are theoretically able to blend or mix. (And when I say “theoretically,” while I am implying that I don’t believe in such a thing, I mean no disrespect to your own belief in it.)

My God has but one Incarnate Son, Who has a human Mother. While you might assume that He’s just like the demigods you believe in, that is not the case; for He is not half-and-half. He is fully God, that is, the one God Himself, and fully man. His nature as a human being did not have to be diminished or lessened in order for the divine nature to be united to it (cf. Fr. Robert Barron, Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, introduction, The Catholic Thing, Kindle).

Of course, I can’t blame you if you find this completely confusing at this point. You might be thinking something like, “but He’s one Person; how can He have two full natures?” I’ll certainly admit that this is mysterious, but I can explain how it is possible. The God I believe in is not just another individual Who possesses being. That’s what you believe your gods to be: you hold them to be things that exist, like you and me. But the God I believe in is not. The God I believe in is perfect existence itself (cf. Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity [illustrated], chapter 3, He Who Is, Kindle). We have existence to certain degrees; He is existence. If He should will it, then, it is certainly possible for Him to unite the fullness of His nature to the fullness of a human nature—because the two do not exist on the same level. They are not in competition, so to speak; as Fr. Robert Barron put it,

“God does indeed enter into his creation, but the world is thereby enhanced and elevated. The God capable of incarnation is not a competitive supreme being but rather, in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the sheer act of being itself, that which grounds and sustains all of creation, the way a singer sustains a song” (Catholicism, introduction, The Catholic Thing, Kindle).

Summary of the explanation

I would say that I am here engaging in interreligious dialogue, as it is outlined by Redemptoris missio §55-56. I keep dialogue closely connected to evangelization (hopefully not too much—though keep in mind, what I’ve written is just what I’m saying, not including any attempt on the part of the polytheists to dialogue back), and I think I hold decently well to the admonitions to “Those engaged in this dialogue must be consistent with their own religious traditions and convictions, and be open to understanding those of the other party without pretense or close-mindedness, but with truth, humility and frankness” (some of those mentioned in §56).

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