Monday, 6 October 2014

To An Unknown God, Roman Catholic Style?

Thanks to reader Paul for alerting me to this - the coat of arms of the new Roman Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, being installed today. One wonders what the apostle Paul would have made of this - the point of interest, in light of our recent discussions about Roman Catholicism and Islam, is the tree in the bottom-right panel, bedecked with symbols of the various religions, including the cross.

Let it be said straight away that contemporary Christians, at least, have no problem co-existing socially with devotees of the world's religions, especially in pluralistic Western societies... although we note that Islam is certainly less tolerant where ever it has the upper hand, not least in the archbishop's own country of Malaysia.

What is potentially scandalous about the Christian use of this symbol - by an archbishop, no less - is the implied equality of  the Christian revelation with the world's religions and the philosophical relativism which lies behind such a notion. Perhaps that is not the message the archbishop intended to convey, in which case concerned Roman Catholics might like to enlighten him as to how it could be perceived. However, in light of the joint prayers in June in the Vatican in which Roman Catholics, Jews and Muslims were invited to pray together, an act which, as I noted in a previous post, would seem to be consistent with the attitude to Islam and Allah set forth in Lumen Gentium, I would need some persuading that this is not another example of a profound confusion in Rome as to the exclusivity of worship in the name of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This confusion, I might add, has been amply illustrated by Catholic commenters on this question here at the old manse.

I have a theory as to why Rome so easily tends towards this error, of which more anon, D.v.  


Stephen K said...

Pastor Mark, in saying that Islam is less tolerant when it has the upper hand, you overlook the fact that when Christianity had the upper hand, it too was less than tolerant. The tolerance you praise for "co-existing with other religions" is the product of the democratic secular state. I have no doubt that if particular Christians could have their way unfettered, divorce, contraception - just to take two examples - would be ciminalised and government subsidy to Muslim schools curtailed. Let us be honest here.

Schütz said...

The entire crest seems a bit silly. The sort of thing to give anyone who knows anything about heraldry the willies.

It seems to me that the crest is designed to say something about the bishop to the public among whom he serves. The inclusion of the Petronus towers seems to say "I belong to the City of Kuala Lumpar". The inclusion of the "tree" seems to say to me, I am here for all Malaysians of all religions". I do wonder if he will get done for copyright, because both the tree and the towers look like logos that have been nicked off google.

I very much doubt that he is saying that Christianity is just one more religion among others. Whatever you take it to imply, Catholic doctrine on this matter is pretty clear - remember the whole "one true Church" thing? Even Lutherans don't get a guernsey. We don't base doctrine on our archepiscopal crests!

That said, if I were inclined to be charitable towards this crest (which, really, I am not - it is indeed horrible and deeply problematic), I would be looking at the tree as some sort of metaphor for the Kingdom of God - you know, the mustard tree image and the "birds of the air" that come and build their nests in the tree? If you see the tree itself as The Kingdom of God / The Church / Christ (rather than the Cross on the tree as representing all these things) then I can live with it. All people of all religions or none are called to be in that Tree.

Steve Martin said...

No guts.

They want to be liked…by everybody.


Acroamaticus said...

Sorry for the delay in getting your comments up, gentlemen. I won't have time to respond until next week, D.v..
Thank you for the comments!