Now to Every Man and Nation Comes the Moment to Decide

It is *amazing* to me, the lengths to which people will go, to try to circumvent the *utterly obvious,* the *utterly ineluctable.*

Not that I am different.

It’s like, “No, I’m not actually damned on my present course, cause, cause, cause, you see, cause …” Eyes frantically casting about for a way out.

But there is no way out. Under Omnipotence, the very notion is absurd.

As an essentialist, I reject existentialism, but I have to grant the existentialists this: they were completely uncompromising in their confrontation with a reality that was never, ever going to compromise with them, so that (so far as their crabbed atheist lights could show) they were inescapably doomed. There is, as they insisted, “no exit.”

And they were absolutely right.

Karma is relentless. Justice is unstoppable. The *only* options are to fight it and end up completely obliterated, or to admit and welcome and agree with it, whole heartedly, sacrificing everything else whatever for its gorgeous glorious sake, and so graduating to joyful everlasting life.

That’s it. No other options.

So, as the existentialists urged us: choose. Hell, or Heaven: which shall it be? OK, then: get on with it.

What are you waiting for, you dog?

Tomorrow night, your King will be arrested, and the next day he will be killed; and then, this Sunday, he will rise from the dead. And from then on, there will be Hell to pay, and no pitch hot. At that point, as Sartre said, les jeux sont fait. Whose side, then, will you be on? His, or that of his murderers? Whose side are you on, right now, this instant?

Choose. Go ahead. Once you’ve done it, you’ll feel relieved, and everything thereafter will be much simpler and more straightforward; not necessarily easier, but better withal.

Nota Bene: not to choose – to delay, to prevaricate, to quibble, to quaver – that is to choose against the King. The only way to choose for the King is to choose for him. There is no excuse; there is no such thing as delay; there is no such thing as “not yet.” It all comes down to now: right now.



  1. Once to every man and nation
    Comes the moment to decide,
    In the strife of truth and falsehood,
    For the good or evil side;
    Some great cause, some great decision,
    Offering each the bloom or blight,
    And the choice goes by forever
    ‘Twixt that darkness and that light.
  2. Then to side with truth is noble,
    When we share her wretched crust,
    ‘Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
    And ’tis prosperous to be just;
    Then it is the brave man chooses
    While the coward stands aside.
    Till the multitude make virtue
    Of the faith they had denied.
  3. By the light of burning martyrs,
    Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
    Toiling up new Calvaries ever
    With the cross that turns not back;
    New occasions teach new duties,
    Ancient values test our youth;
    They must upward still and onward,
    Who would keep abreast of Truth.
  4. Though the cause of evil prosper,
    Yet the truth alone is strong;
    Though her portion be the scaffold,
    And upon the throne be wrong;
    Yet that scaffold sways the future,
    And, behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow,
    Keeping watch above His own.

James Russell Lowell

15 thoughts on “Now to Every Man and Nation Comes the Moment to Decide

  1. Pingback: Now to Every Man and Nation Comes the Moment to Decide | @the_arv

  2. Not to choose is not an option. It’s only a pretense. This is because one must express assent or dissent in one’s actions, even when one’s expresses skepticism in one’s words. The actions that express assent may be highly deficient–indeed the whole point of the incarnation and crucifixion is that they cannot be altogether sufficient–but their meaning is found in their intention, their aim.

  3. Do we confuse asking either/or questions in a timely manner with asking the same type of question without a temporal constraint. It seems in our current era many people feel an answer to the either/or type of question must be given in a very immediate manner. Deciding between Heaven and He’ll under such a constraint as time seems to be more like coersion if it ends up limiting introspection.

    • With all due respect to the terrible predicament of uncertain minds, the inescapable fact is that we are temporally limited. Our time is short, whether we like it or not. And the moment of every decision is of limited temporal duration – perhaps a few seconds, at most. It is some now or other. We are granted a number of such moments, but cannot know how many. So the decision comes down to this very moment; and this is so for all moments. Every moment is the moment of decision.

      And every moment in which we have not yet decided in favor of omnipotent infinite goodness is a moment in which we have effectually decided against it.

      The only excuse is for minds that do not yet understand the decision – minds that have not, as the Catechism puts it, yet heard and understood the Gospel. It seems to me frankly that many, many atheists do not yet understand the decision; they do not understand what is properly meant by “God.” Perhaps they shall be granted mercy on that Day; God knows.

      But, really: how hard is it to understand the decision? It comes down to this: are you for infinite goodness, or not? How can anyone be *against* infinite goodness? So, as Paul says, they are without excuse.

      • Unfortunately, this infinite goodness is often paired with other things making it seem this decision happens to be a hard one to make. This distorts a person’s view of what the embrace of it does in one’s life. This is where my previous comment about having to decide in a timely manner to answer the either/or question comes in. The simple answer to the question becomes distorted, for example a false prophet with false promises, by the conditions and immediacy that keep one from truly embracing what the true goodness is. I guess it’s this, beware the false prophet screaming the end for the world is at hand so you must embrace God and all of his infinite goodness for a price of 9.95 to buy the preacher’s book with all of it venom now codified into written words.

      • I’m not for “infinite goodness” as a concept, it seems to me a kind of mistake, a short-circuit in the brain, and one that is likely to be destructive to actual finite goodness.

        Lest you think I’m therefore on the side of Satan, let me point out that “infinite” is a negation; it is the finite that is real and the infinite is the negation of the real.

      • If you are not for boundless goodness, then you must not understand the concept. Either that, or you are addled in your wits, or else abandoned to evil. You are neither addled or abandoned. So you must not understand infinite goodness.

        Your second sentence indicates as much: quantity and reality are obviously quite different dimensions. Five is not more real than seven, or less. Yet 5 < 7. And a.morphous is more real than Peter Pan, even though there is only one of each of them.

        Nor is there any logical incoherence in the concept of infinity. Thus there is no reason why an infinite real could not exist; that infinity is a coherent concept *just means* that an infinite real is a possibility (only that which is logically incoherent is necessarily impossible). An infinite real would obviously not be a negation of the real, but its archetypal exemplification. It would be the most real being of all.

        And that is just what the Schoolmen called him: the ens realissimum.

        I see of course the down to earth point you are making: all the concrete goods of our normal acquaintance are finite. Why chase after a will o’ the wisp?

        But, just as 7 does not some how rule out 5, nor infinity rule out 7, so likewise infinite goodness does not rule out concrete finite goods. On the contrary, it includes them; indeed, it entails them. Not a sparrow falls …

      • I find infinity difficult to comprehend, but to the extent I have made any progress, it came from escaping the basilisk of infinite space and an infinite set of numbers. Quantitative infinity, in other words. There’s nothing wrong with quantitative infinity, but if we treat it as a master trope, it cripples our ability to think about infinite qualities. I am open to correction on this, but I understand an infinite quality as very similar to a Platonic idea. It is that quality without privation.

      • Yes. Some perfections are quantifiable, many are not. What is the perfect performance of Bach’s B minor Mass? The question doesn’t really make sense.

        The allure of mathematical infinity as a metaphor is that it allows us to see more easily and precisely the relation of a Form to each of its partial implementations.

        Another helpful way to approach that relation is through mereology – the logic of parts and wholes. It allows us to get at a few tricky aspects of what it means to say that a thing “participates” its archetype.

        The notion that “infinite” aims at is not so much mathematical infinity as boundlessness, limitlessness. One Greek term for ens realissimum is to apeiron: the unlimited. The Hebrew version is ain sof; the Chinese call it the Tao.

        The Limit of all things is not himself limited. Nevertheless is he perfectly definite.

      • If you are not for boundless goodness, then you must not understand the concept.

        I՚m against the concept of boundless goodness, which is not exactly the same thing.

        quantity and reality are obviously quite different dimensions.

        ? Anything that is a dimension is by definition quantitative. Perhaps you mean to say that reality is not a dimension, that is, there is nothing more or less real than anything else, a position known as “flat ontology”, but I doubt that՚s your position, as evidenced by your other statement.

        You believe I՚m more real than Peter Pan, which is certainly true from my perspective. Not sure why it should be from yours, after all, you know more about Peter Pan than you do about me, and Peter Pan has more presence in the world than I do.

        So forget my talk of more real or less real, let՚s substitute a somewhat less-problematic dimension, say, tangibility. Five is tangible, we can՚t touch the abstract concept but it is easy to count five oranges or five heartbeats, while infinity is not similarly accessible. Both “five” and “infinity” are mathematical concepts, but they are quite dissimilar in their import, both in mathematical terms and in cognitive terms.

        Similarly, particular forms of goodness are very accessible to us – we can recognize good food, or good craftsmanship, or good people. Infinite goodness is not so accessible. As with numbers, we can entertain both concepts of goodness, but they don՚t behave the same way. A finite good, for instance, can be produced or increased with human effort, but an infinite good by definition cannot be.

        That doesn՚t imply that infinite good is necessarily opposed to finite good. But in practice it is often the case. To quote Blake:

        He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.

      • What makes you think infinite good is inaccessible and intangible? What could possibly prevent that infinite good from touching everything whatever?

        Apparently you have not yet understood how he has touched you, or therefore noticed that he has done so.

        What could possibly prevent the infinite good from doing good in untold Minute Particulars? By definition, every good he did would be minute and particular, in comparison to his own boundlessness and wholeness. And by definition, he could not be limited in the number of such goods he might do. Indeed, every minute particular without exception would be radically subject to his influence.

        You can’t be against the concept of infinite good without also being against the man himself. Reals are concrete concepts; are concepts concretely realized. If I’m against the idea of a.morphous, I’m against a.morphous himself.

        Anything that is a dimension is by definition quantitative.

        Not so. E.g., truth, validity, definiteness, implicity, liceity, orthodoxy, identity, congruence, and facticity are all digital, and admit of no degrees. They obtain completely, or not at all; so that it is not possible to tell *how much* they obtain – to measure the quantity of their obtinence – but rather only *whether* they obtain. Yet obviously they are mensurable. Again, beauty, justice, righteousness, perfection, holiness, similarity, participation, courage, loyalty, fidelity, purity, charity, peace and goodness all admit of degrees, and are mensurable, but are not amenable to quantitative analysis.


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