July 15, 2012

Blinders. We wear them because we are scientific.

Sherry Weddell, Miracles, Healing, and Conversion. Are We Ready for This?:

The Catholic Diocese of Itanger in India has grown 40% over the past 35 years. Their secret? Miraculous healings apparently. Lots of them. Conversions because of an encounter with the healing power of Jesus Christ are occurring by the millions all over the world and is readily spoken of by other kinds of Christians but Catholics are often reluctant to acknowledge that it happens among us as well. And this reluctance is not just found among western Catholics.

Note the Vatican Insider title: India's "Impossible" Miracles. Note that the Indian priest telling this story says the stories “baffle me. I have a theological mindset and it is easy to become skeptical about this kind of thing. But the interested parties are absolutely convinced that what happened to them was real.”

Just when must a theological mindset be at odds with acknowledging the power of God to heal? That's not a "theological" mindset (think St. Augustine gathering stories of healing in his diocese), that's an Enlightenment mindset. And it shows a poverty of both imagination and spiritual expectancy that would be very foreign to most of the great Catholic missionaries and evangelists of the past.

An Indian friend wrote and shared his experience of the Catholic attitudes toward evangelization in India:

There is a strong emphasis on the narrative that "evangelization has not worked," that India is somehow inherently impervious to the Gospel. It is also ironic because Indian cultures are *very* religious, popular devotions are, well, really popular, there isn't this kind of skepticism towards and distance between the "ordinary" world and the supernatural/spiritual/numinous, there is a long and rich tradition of mysticism and so on. Stories like Arunachal Pradesh are a reminder of the sovereignty of God! And so inspiring!

And I responded: “Interesting - the "India is impervious to the Gospel" which I also heard in the 90's at my Jesuit grad school from a Jesuit. He told our class (seriously) that Francis Xavier went to India to get away from the Pope! Fortunately, I happened to have a grad background in Indian - specifically Jesuit - mission history as well as a much more accurate sense of the realities of global missions. He said that only 2% of Asians were Christian while I knew that the number was really about 7% then.” Today, that percentage is nearly 9%....

Maybe the real narrative should be that Jesuits are somehow inherently impervious to the Gospel!

That "Enlightenment mindset" is so bogus. All kinds of people "know" things such as that miracles don't happen. How do they know? Dogma.

Evidence that miracles don't happen? "We don't need no steenkin' evidence, we're scientists!" Actually it was Enlightenment thinking that divided the world into "normal" things and "miracles." But that was just an assertion. Which immediately became a set of mental blinders. It was and is a faith that people convert to. No one at the time said that Moses or Jesus worked "miracles." They spoke of "signs" and "wonders."

Likewise the Enlightenment asserted that if mankind were freed of religion and superstition, we would become wiser and better. But this was never advanced as a hypothesis, as something that could be tested and falsified.

A real scientist should be a truth-seeker, and should be delighted to hear that the universe might possibly be richer and odder than he had thought.

Posted by John Weidner at July 15, 2012 2:23 PM

In 40 years, the population of India has increased by more than 100% so 40% in 35 years does not seem very extra-ordinary

Arunachal Pradesh (AP) is hill tribes on the Tibetan frontier (the head hunters of Assam). Many of them were converted en masse in British period-the said head hunters.

There are conversions in Deccan and south, but the North is still pretty resistant.

Posted by: Gian at July 15, 2012 11:53 PM

Your link is unreliable. The census of India figure for Christians is 2.3%, up from 2.0 or 2.1 in 1971.

The child proportion (0-6 years) in Christians is lower than compared with other groups.

The figures of 17% or more are a total

There is no reason to believe that the official figures are greatly in error. I would say,"even slightly in error". The total population is 1.2 billion, the census may be doubtful only in the forest area afflicted with the Maoist insurgency, but these regions have relatively very small population.

Posted by: Gian at July 16, 2012 1:49 AM

"There is no reason to believe that the official figures are greatly in error."

I don't know anything specific on the census. But from what I've heard of corruption and inefficiency in Indian government, I'd say one should assume the figures are bogus until proven otherwise.

But that's not my interest. Rather, I found this piece intriguing as an example of a blinkered mindset that automatically rejects anything not part of a strictly materialist view...

...Some how or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.The open obvious democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder. -- GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Posted by: John Weidner at July 16, 2012 9:36 PM

And what if Hindus applied Chesterton too?.
The Hindus have plenty of miracles and claims of miracles made by common people.

There is very little incentive to corruption in census figures. They are not incorrect by any significant proportion. Certainly not bogus and they don't have bogus categories either.

I am not aware of any effort by the Catholic Church in India towards evangelism. The Protestants do carry out evangelism but almost all effort goes to the tribals -- people living on hill tracts in central India that were never integrated into the Hindu society and now facing Maoist insurgency against integration and industrialization.

Curiously, the Protestant missionaries do not try to evangelize the wider Hindu society, except in in southern states of Tamils and Andhra. This creates a great deal of suspicion in the wider Hindu society as to the motives of missionaries.

A great deal of future trouble may lie owing to this trajectory of missionary effort in India.

Posted by: Gian at July 17, 2012 2:19 AM

If we have free will, we live in a universe made up of miracles. If you choose to pick up a stone, you have created physical action with no physical cause. You have expended a few joules of work with no work input.

Posted by: Terry at July 17, 2012 7:51 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Weblog by John Weidner