Christian Soteriology Proper Forestalls Specious Holiness Spirals

We can’t work our way into Heaven, for finity is incapable of infinity. Indeed, we cannot achieve anything greater than ourselves, whatever; but only, rather, what is lesser than we. So, Heaven is given to us gratuitously. Our work consists only in accepting its invitation; in wu wei.

So then, there is a difference between interior holiness spirals and exterior holiness spirals. The former are done in secret, and in service of true spiritual ends, so as to accept the invitation of the Logos; whereas the latter are done publicly, and for purposes of social advantage. As essentially worldly, exterior holiness spirals partake the Arms Race to the Degenerate Bottom. They are motivated by the urge to be accepted and approved by the mob. So do they accept the conditions of the mob, and instantiate it.

The Pharisee is an agent of the mob.

Exterior holiness spirals are the sort that Jim rightly frets about. But their sort are not really holiness spirals. They are speciously holiness spirals. In fact, they are pharisaical. They are pretenses, shams – sound and fury signifying nothing. So are they instances of the Fall. They are spirals, not into holiness, but into falsehood, error, damnation.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 7:21

Exterior holiness spirals are “holiness” spirals. This is to say no more than that they are profanity spirals.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:5-6

So: Christian soteriology forestalls holiness spirals ab initio. This, however, only insofar as the Church in her preaching and in her teaching repudiates public pharisaical attestations of holiness as hypocritical manifestations in act of deep seated social anxiety.

The True Church is hidden. It is hidden in plain sight. It consists in the private – the exquisitely private – devotions of her members in their humble communions with the Most High, that no one ever hears about.

Do you hear something about the Church? That is not the Church you are hearing about. It is rather almost always a fossil of the Church that you hear about; a Potemkin Village of the Church; indeed, it is a profanation of the Church, and of her Gospel.

The True Church is in this world, but not of it. There is, then, no sort of possible news about her; for, she partakes eternity, and of eternity there can be nothing that is news. This is not to say that there is nothing new in eternity. On the contrary: eternity is newness as such, and the source of all that is new.

15 thoughts on “Christian Soteriology Proper Forestalls Specious Holiness Spirals

  1. Pingback: Christian Soteriology Proper Forestalls Specious Holiness Spirals | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: Christian Soteriology Proper Forestalls Specious Holiness Spirals | Reaction Times

  3. Your nomenclature is unhelpful. Largely that’s not your fault; the concept of a ‘holiness spiral’ as such is that pharisaical movement. It’s essentially social, thus the spiral – which consists of more than one element locked together in a cybernetic feedback loop. You are right to point out that the movement of true saintliness has very little in common with this phenomenon, and that generally speaking the two can be told apart in about five minutes of talking with someone face-to-face or thirty seconds on a Facebook feed. (Pro tip: if it’s on a Facebook feed, it’s profane.)

    Unfortunately trying to separate the two phenomena while still using the term ‘holiness spiral’ for both is not just likely to be rhetorically unhelpful, but I think also dialectically untrue. The central conceit of a holiness spiral involves that cybernetic loop, tied further together with an implicit claim about least action. It takes courage and awareness both to defy the spiral.

    Meanwhile, true saintliness is not something you just fall into because you’re going with the flow. If anything (and here I borrow expertise not mine) it gets harder as you go along.

    The term is probably itself unhelpfully misleading and causes heathens to lump together two distinct things via a sort of psychological explanation of events, and that’s certainly not your fault.

    • I laughed out loud at your pro tip. So true.

      The two sorts of holiness spiral do radically differ. The “holiness” spiral is easy, and keeps getting easier. It is a sort of Fall. True holiness spirals, by contrast, are a climb. And as with corporeal mountains, the higher you go, the harder the climbing – the nobler, the more splendid and exhilarating.

      Profanity spirals are obviously socially mediated positive feedback loops. But so are true holiness spirals, it seems to me: with the difference that the society that mediates them is supramundane – remembering that supersidiary worlds environ and include our own, so that a society composed of Rhetocrates, his confessor and his spiritual director, his guardian angel, his patron saints, Jesus and the BVM is a supramundane society.

      Both are positive feedback loops in that in both, the sinner is called – is allured – by the mediating society to increase his expression of what he has so far in them achieved: the greater one’s vice, the less one notices it as vicious, and the more reasonable even greater vice comes to seem; the greater one’s virtue, the less one accounts it as such, and the more reasonable and indeed urgent it comes to seem to achieve even greater heights of virtue.

      As to the rhetorical utility of the term ‘holiness spiral,’ I largely agree. Scare quotes are needed. We ought to write ‘holiness’ spiral, just as we ought to write ‘virtue’ signal and ‘Cathedral.’ No one will do that, though. But then, these terms are used only on the Right, and their use is always sarcastic. And sarcasm can dispense with precision, and use terms to mean their opposite; as when we discover the dog has barfed on the sofa and say, “Oh, this is just great.”

  4. The last three paragraphs of the OP read as if they are embracing something akin to Luther’s idea that there is a visible and an invisible Church, which is a serious heresy. Notions of Nestorian ecclesiology are as diabolical as Nestorianism itself. Our Lord’s Mystical Body cannot be divided into two distinct beings – a heavenly invisible “True” Church on the one hand and a profane but visible “Potemkin Village” on the other. The institutional Church is the only Church: the visible society founded by Christ, namely, the Catholic Church under the supreme jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome. Anything else is balderdash.

    • Well, all I can say is that you’ve quite badly misread those paragraphs. They were not about the Church, so much as they were about the news of the Church that we read in the media. When we read, e.g., about the sexual sins of a priest, or about the defects of the hierarchy in responding thereto, we read not about the Body of Christ, which cannot be corrupted, but about corrupt men, who – insofar as their mortal sins are yet unrepented – have alienated themselves from that Body, and betrayed their Lord. They are traitors to the Church, wolves clothed as shepherds.

      The media celebrate apparently heretical statements by prelates that seem to indicate the Church might soon declare that homosexual acts are not sinful as terrifically good news, and to the credit of the Church. It condemns actual homosexual acts by priests as horrifically bad news, and to the demerit of the Church.

      Almost all the news we hear about the Church is of this nature. It is produced by her enemies; which is to say, that it is produced by the Enemy. It is news, not about the Church, but about her enemies.

      Almost all the news we hear about the Church is of this nature; but not all, of course. There’s lots of stuff in Catholic media that is not of this sort. E.g., restoration of an old basilica, a solemn mass celebrating this or that, the foundation of a monastery or abbey, a terrific homily praught by Father Dominic somewhere, a return to ad orientem at Saint Xavier’s, and so forth. But that sort of stuff never hits the big time in the media; usually, it is transmitted only within the relevant congregation. That was what I meant in writing that “no one ever hears about” it.

      And of course one never hears about the entirely orthodox statements of entirely orthodox prelates all over the world, uttered thousands of times every day. Such stuff is not newsworthy.

      I hope that this has set your mind at ease.

      • I’m glad to have been mistaken. It was not obvious to me from the OP that your line about the True Church being hidden was intended to actually mean that the True Church is maligned and misrepresented by Her enemies.

  5. I had an unoriginal thought worked out this morning that I wanted to share. Mostly it’s already well-established, but it does go in a slightly novel direction in explaining the ‘holiness’ spiral of modern society.

    Modern progressive liberalism (viz. WW2 and after) is a specific negative type of Christianity. That much is obvious. Where our once-for-all and yet repeated-daily Eucharist (Malachi) is the navel and foundation of our religion, the Holocaust is the navel and foundation of modern progressive liberalism (hereafter MPL to save keystrokes).

    First, this is specifically a negative type: in the true Passion, the Jews sacrifice the Christ; in the MPL passion, the Devil (née Hitler) sacrifices the Jews. (Other deaths due to Nazi eugenics or concentration or simple war-time conditions or the atrocities of modernist war are simply unimportant to MPL. It’s the Jews who count.)

    Further, just as the priest unites the Church with the sacrifice of Christ in the daily remembrance of the Eucharist, the MPList unites the body of those who believe in MPL with the Holocaust through accusations of racism/sexism/etc. etc.

    So far, so obvious, and it has been this way since at least the post-War period, though not too much prior to that.

    We could also go into an analysis of how Christianity is the fulfillment of paganism whereas MPL is a resumption of that same paganism, as seen in the essential differences of their sacrifice and scapegoating rituals. But that’s been done much more thoroughly elsewhere.

    However, the Christian Eucharist must be mediated by priests. The priesthood is hard to get into, and requires all kinds of commitments that make it unattractive, and the ranks of priests are limited by geographic, social, and political considerations. Plus, becoming a priest requires a strong indoctrination as to the nature, limits, and use of your powers, along with a whole lot of oversight.

    Contrariwise, the MPL remembrance ritual can be enacted by anyone at any time (subject to certain limits regarding relative social status), comes with no restrictions on its use in the form of vows or prohibited behaviours, and confers social status upon those who do so.

    So it’s no surprise MPL is so susceptible to ‘holiness’ spirals. Christianity has many mechanisms in place to interrupt such signals and suppress them, whereas MPL is specifically structured to encourage and amplify them.

  6. Pingback: An Hypothesis about the Origins of the Modern Sacrificial Cult – The Orthosphere

    • No. Public holiness that risks ostracism and death, and that ends in martyrdom and sainthood, is the real deal.

      “Holiness” spirals can be ascertained because their effect is to promote the worldly status of those who engage in them. Spirals of true holiness are not of or toward this world.


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