The Orthosphere and Bruce Charlton’s Circle have lately been discussing the nature and current state of Christianity. This is an urgent matter so I’m compelled to respond.
In sum: I ask traditionalists for something very specific: an explicit acknowledgement that – here-and-now – the effective and resistant faith of even the most traditionalist and church-orientated of real-Christians has a personal and intuitive foundation. [emphasis in original.]
Given the correct understanding of the meaning of intuition, this is true. But I sense that Bruce is using a somewhat incorrect definition.
Since reality exists and is what it is independent of us, knowledge ultimately refers to something out there, unless it is knowledge of one of our inner states. Religious knowledge is no exception.
Intuition is man’s faculty of knowing something to be true without engaging in a process of reasoning. “You just know it.” But since man is not omniscient, he must have confirmation that comes from outside his mind, something that is really out there.
It does no good to complain that by verifying it you make it no longer intuition. Because reality exists external to man, his intuitions are sometimes wrong. And since he can be wrong, man needs confirmation even of his intuitions.
The act that is purely subjective (purely personal, if you will) is not knowing, but rather apprehending this knowledge. Taking it inside of us, affirming it, relying on it, living by it.
Intuition is needed for the simple reason that all reasoning is ultimately based on premises that are not subject to formal proof. If everything must be proved formally we have an infinite regress, with the result that we know nothing. Therefore, it is inescapable that some things are accepted without formal proof. But since man is not infallible, he needs confirmation even of his premises. It may appear contradictory, but it is inescapable. Some things must be formally unproved, and since we are capable of being wrong we must seek confirmation outside of ourselves.
We know Christian truth by reading it in the Bible, by listening to teachers and scholars give a fuller exegesis of its meaning, and by learning what the Christian apologists have said in refutation of the skeptics and enemies.
We also must acknowledge that the Bible is the Word of God, that is, its ultimate Author is God and therefore when we understand it correctly it is completely true. Authority does play a role, but it is the authority of God over all human authorities.
In other words: Something may seem right to us, but if it is true then it will withstand scrutiny whereas if it is false it will eventually fail the test.
I sense that Bruce does not fully acknowledge this need for confirmation by seeking external evidence. For example, he knows by intuition that the Fourth Gospel was written by Lazarus, and that it contains the only fully accurate account of the life and teachings of Jesus. But he has not, to my knowledge, published any refutations of common arguments against his position. He does not, at any rate, give objective reasons why others ought to agree with him.
II) Francis Berger quoted Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor accusing Jesus of expecting too much of people. In response, Charlton said:
The deepest truth is that Jesus made things extraordinarily *simple* – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” John 10: 27-8; and “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20: 31) – indeed, that simplicity is the problem.
So simple is Jesus’s work and message, that people can’t believe it, and insist upon something extremely complex.
Bruce is right. I would probably dispute his exact understanding of “My sheep hear my voice,” but the larger meaning is spot on: We are made Christians – – saved, if you will – – by knowing Jesus through reading the Scriptures and then trusting Him to forgive our sins and give us spiritual life. The other stuff is, at best, our response to being in Christ.
I also applaud Bruce’s last quoted sentence. Most Christians regard the Gospel message as too good to be true, so they busy themselves doing religious things in a vain attempt to make God like them more. It’s part of human nature, and it’s what enables religious tyrants and charlatans to do their dirty work.
In response, Berger said
The further development of Christian consciousness hinges upon the (re)discovery of Jesus’s simple, straightforward message and the straightforward “tough” choices that follow.
Yes. As long as you really are discovering what Jesus actually taught, in specific words at specific places at specific times.
III) Charlton’s Circle emphasize that the churches are (or, as some prefer to say, the Church is) profoundly compromised. Christianity as an institution – – as congregations, denominations, seminaries, etc. – – has deeply failed us. The institutions are targets for the woke lynch mobs which facilitate the woke takeover. Like once-healthy cells hijacked by viruses, they begin turning out vectors of infection instead of believers in Christ. To Charlton’s Circle and those of like mind, Traditional Christianity is kaput and something else is needed.
As a general judgment this is correct. There are faithful churches, more than many people know, but they have a low profile. High-profile Christendom is corrupt.
With traditional Christianity, and especially Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, you cannot do it without being formally involved with the formal structure and formal operations of the church as an organization. So what’s a Christian to do when these structures and operations are ruined?
I’m trying not to be partisan, but it needs to be said: Traditional Protestantism makes the right call here. The Specific Thing that gives you eternal life in Christ is not the formal religious membership or activities. It is faith in Jesus Christ. And we know this because Christ and His Apostles explained how it works, in detail, in Scripture. And we can know what the words of Scripture mean, not by exclusive reliance on a formal priesthood or a formal tradition, but according to the ordinary meanings of the words, augmented sometimes by the findings of scholars of the ancient languages or of the writings of early Christians.
Christ had a specific message which He delivers through the recorded words of Scripture and as long as accurate copies exist, Scripture cannot be hijacked. Misinterpreted, yes. Lied about, yes. But if the words are there, those who desire to know what they really mean can find this meaning.
There is an obvious problem here: By rejecting or mistrusting institutional Christianity, Christians may decouple themselves from the (lower-case-t) tradition that connects them with the correct understanding of Christianity that has been worked out over several thousand years. But there is no foolproof remedy. All institutions can go wrong through either gradual entropic drift or hostile takeover. They can go wrong formally, through the formal ratification of error, or informally through individual members deciding not to follow the true way. No institutional structure can change this.
We need low-profile churches, that is, locally-organized small congregations. They already exist in abundance, and they can be the seeds for many more such churches. True doctrine is being spread via the Web without the need for seminaries; solid teachers like John MacArthur and the late R. C. Sproul make a persuasive case because of their obvious mastery of the subject rather than their institutional credentials. Small “underground” or semi-underground seminaries deliver more focused instruction for those who desire to become pastors or teachers. Semi-formal church collaborations – -quasi-denominations, if you will – – provide some protection against heresy, along with “discernment ministries” which bring a degree of accountability to heterodox and heretical celebrity pastors. For example, Fighting for the Faith.
It’s reminiscent of the early church.
IV) It is said that one big reason something new is needed is that men’s minds are different. Mankind has evolved. Berger:
The problem with [the traditional] approach is it doesn’t fully consider the reality of consciousness development – that is, the simple fact that modern people are much different from the people who inhabited traditional Christendom.
In other words, the old system of Christendom is not suitable for modern man.
I don’t believe human nature has changed, but surrounded with modernist propaganda and living entirely within a modernistic world, contemporary man is habituated to different ways of thinking compared with previous mankind. To cite just one example: contemporary man is obsessed with his internal states and his rights, whereas non-contemporary man was concerned with either physical survival or with properly honoring his superiors so as not to be ostracized.
But the basic message of Christianity is orthogonal to all world systems, contemporary or ancient. Your deepest problem is your sin against God. And your only remedy is being in Christ through repentance and faith in him. This was no less offensive to ancient man than it is to contemporary man. Contemporary man has more sophisticated defense mechanisms: materialism atheism, wokeism, and so on. But those to whom God gives spiritual life will respond. Ephesians 2:4,5 reads
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)
Is The Christian Church (in some sense of The Church) in-charge-of human salvation – or is salvation primarily a matter for each individual [?] [Emphasis in original]
A person can be saved without being a member of a church because according to Scripture salvation is caused by individuals having faith in Jesus Christ. But the church collectively has responsibility to preserve the correct understanding of Christianity, to proclaim the message to mankind, and to shepherd the various flocks of believers, i.e., to help individual Christians to be Christian in their daily lives. The churches mediate a salvation that originates outside of their jurisdiction.
But if individual congregations and denominations become sufficiently confused or false in their teachings, they no longer mediate salvation. That being so, the individual Christian must evaluate pastors, teachers, congregations and denominations. The need for discernment has never been greater.
Thanks, Alan, my old friend. Well said.
Thank you for your kind words, Kristor. We’ve been at this a long time (in internet years, at least) haven’t we? Ever since Lawrence Auster, of blessed memory, took us under his wings.
True. It must, of course, be observed that rightly called/ordained pastors are necessary for administration of Baptism (except in emergencies) and the Lord’s Supper, and that these Sacraments are means of grace which we dare not despise. However, it must also be observed that the Sacraments are only beneficial if one has faith (which includes believing God’s promises concerning the Sacraments). It is unbelief which condemns a man, not lack of the Sacraments (see Mark 16:16), though we ought avail ourselves of the Sacraments whenever possible. Not that I think you intended to deny any of this, but I thought an addendum was in order.
For anyone confused by the above:
The Sacraments have both objective efficacy and subjective efficacy. The Sacraments are objectively efficacious by virtue of God’s promises concerning them (what they are and what they do; see, for example, Luther’s explanation of the Sacraments in the links below). The Sacraments are subjectively efficacious by virtue of the faith of the recipient (faith itself being the gift of God, per Ephesians 2:8).
@Alan – We have discussed this by e-mail – and I have explained myself; but this was not very fruitful because we did not properly discuss foundational metaphysical assumptions as being primary.
Maybe we can do this here; by focusing on your first points:
“Since reality exists and is what it is independent of us, knowledge ultimately refers to something out there, unless it is knowledge of one of our inner states. Religious knowledge is no exception.”
I disagree that there is a ‘reality’ independent of us – I would regard *that* as being mere uncreated chaos, without form and unknowable. God’s creation is the reality we can know, and it is not ‘independent’ of us because we are God’s children. To the (lesser, partial, intermittent) extent we share in God’s divine consciousness, we can know creation in the same way that God knows creation. That is the basis of valid ‘intuition’.
“Intuition is man’s faculty of knowing something to be true without engaging in a process of reasoning. “You just know it.” But since man is not omniscient, he must have confirmation that comes from outside his mind, something that is really out there.”
Well… any ‘confirmation’ will necessarily also arise in our consciousness; and we can only know it as ‘confirmation’ by means of our consciousness, i.e by means of thinking. We cannot escape that everything we know is affected by our own consciousness. Thus any possible ‘confirmation’ – in principle – itself invites intuitive confirmation. We cannot escape the fact of intuition as the basis of knowledge – we can only fail to notice or deny it.
“It does no good to complain that by verifying it you make it no longer intuition. Because reality exists external to man, his intuitions are sometimes wrong. And since he can be wrong, man needs confirmation even of his intuitions.”
“The act that is purely subjective (purely personal, if you will) is not knowing, but rather apprehending this knowledge. Taking it inside of us, affirming it, relying on it, living by it.”
The idea of a division between “pure” subjectivity and objectivity is not tenable – we dwell in God’s creation – and knowledge is possible only because we participate in it by our consciousness. The division between subjectivity and objectivity is itself a product of human consciousness – children don’t have it (nor do some tribal peoples) – it is something that usually develops as we modern (especially ‘Western) Men mature.
In general, the fixation upon ‘certainty’ of knowledge (so-called epistemology) is a red herring in philosophy, because the discourse disregards its own underlying assumptions – which are metaphysics.
If instead we focus on understanding and clarifying our basic, metaphysical assumptions – our basic, simple, perhaps child-like, assumptions regarding the ultimate nature of reality – then apparently insoluble problems of ‘certainty’ are reframed in ways that are understandable to common sense.
I see these times (here-and-now) as enforcing a stripping away of more and complex institutional and traditional forms – as these have been corrupted and turned to more active, and more extreme, forms of evil. Because that it what I believe of the churches, as I believe it of health care, the mass media, law and police, and universities – these are now (and increasingly) net-evil social forms. They are on the side of Satan and the demons, and more actively and explicitly so with time.
This naturally also applies to the Protestant tradition in relation to The Bible: the concepts of what the Bible is, what it means, how it should be used; how scripture ought to be read and understood… all these have been (overall) long-since captured, subverted, and inverted to serve the Satanic agenda.
The effect can be observed in the actions of those evangelical (and other Protestant) churches that claim to be Bible-based – especially since 2020. The vast structures of translation, scholarship and interpretation are now such that The Bible is regarded as supporting… whatever the global totalitarians happen to regard as most important ‘today’ (in the UK e.g. mass immigration, a socialistic welfare state, environmentalism, foreign ‘aid’).
e.g. The church that I most attended in the past decade, and which I most supported, and in which my family was most closely involved, is regarded as one of the most serious and devout, conservative, evangelical, Bible-based churches in the entire Church of England (and in long term escalating conflict with the CofE hierarchy; to the point of having a bishop and pastors ordained by overseas GAFCON bishops – https://www.gafcon.org/).
Yet their response to the birdemic was perhaps the most extremely pro-Establishment of any church in this area – with *extra*-extreme/ prolonged lockdown, masking, distancing; including cancellation of all forms of ‘gathering’ – including the weekly home prayer-study groups that are the lifeblood of this type of Protestantism.
Forty years of progressive and substantial evangelism-driven expansion – church growth and church planting, with a very large, complex and multi-faceted ministry – was in-a-trice cancelled and thrown aside – willingly, and indeed enthusiastically. Suddenly all the principles of evangelism, and the idea that it mattered more than *anything*, was subordinated to the current diktat of a government and media which had, just days before, been regarded as a prime source of societal evil.
And there has been no repentance – no insight that what happened was wrong, was indeed evil.
When the tradition of Bible-based Christianity (with its immense structure of scholarship and training) has been so deeply subverted and co-opted as to lead to willing self-destruction – to church suicide; then where can Protestant Christians turn?
Whom can they trust – when almost all their scripture teachers have joined the devil’s side – and when they realized that their own ‘system’ of being-a-Christian has proved itself not just useless against systemic evil, but actively harmful: pro-evil?
(i.e. Protestant evangelicals did not just submit – but argued positively in favour of the need and goodness of their own submission, and submitted more than was required legally, and maintained this submission longer than most institutions.)
Well, the answer is that serious Christians are thrown back onto their own discernment – i.e. intuition. They will either sift through their own denomination, through the authorities, through the centuries… and/ or will look at other denominations of Christianity, outside of Christianity – or even think, reason and discern for themselves: mostly in order to test and validate what others have said and done, but sometimes to infer or create from their own God-given natures.
But whatever they do entails discernment, and that discernment will – at root – be intuitive; because otherwise it will just be a part of the problem, part of the Global Totalitarian system of evil.
Bruce, I have several things to say in response, but I want to start by trying to encouraging you. Have you heard of John MacArthur?
I have a couple of links but I don’t know how to embed them in comments, so here goes:
MacArthur is about 80 years old, has a massive online presence, pastors a large church in the L.A. area, and there are videos of him from the pulpit denouncing all sorts of modernist evils including the birdemic madness (after closing for about two weeks, he reopened his church and kept it open in the face of legal threats from civil authorities.)
He also supports a traditional Protestant understanding of all things and there are millions of Christians worldwide who respect and are influenced by him.
There is at least one exemplar of “traditional” Christianity still carrying on. In fact, flourishing.
Bruce, do you acknowledge that intuitions – – like all mental states – – can be mistaken? Or do you regard intuitions as correct by definition? Or something else?
@Alan – This is splitting non-existent hairs! – since I only ever said that that the leadership of *major* Christian denominations/ churches (RCC, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist etc) followed and endorsed the totalitarian-demonic line wrt the birdemic – I have always been aware of local scale exceptions.
“Bruce, do you acknowledge that intuitions – – like all mental states – – can be mistaken? Or do you regard intuitions as correct by definition? Or something else?”
You have asked me this before, more than once – and I have answered; I have also written scores (maybe hundreds) of posts on the topic at my blog. I really don’t get why you keep recurring to this question?
I can easily answer with a simple – “No! Obviously not!”
But the point is for you to understand what you mean by intuitions (or anything else) being True. What counts as truth – if one has (in theory) eliminated all human thinking/ consciousness/ language from the assertion?
And given that in real life thinking/ consciousness/ language are always a part of every enquiry and discourse – and given that these are fallible – against what kind of ‘truth’ do you mean to judge intuition, when you ask if intuition is infallible?
When I say “this intuition was wrong” – against what ‘gold standard’ of truth am I judging it? And (most importantly) how can I eliminate intuition from the gold standard of truth? The fact is – intuition (whether implicit or explicit) is Always at the base of every gold standard that we could use in validating any communication, any language or symbolism.
There is a simple and coherent answer to this apparently ‘relativistic’ paradox; and that is what I propose as the best Christian theology. But such answers require a different (much more child-like and spontaneous) metaphysical basis than that which you are asking the question from.
So you are saying that intuitions cannot be mistaken. Your precise belief on this point had not been clear to me before.
But your assertion that intuitions cannot be mistaken is either false (because all humans sometimes entertain false beliefs) or irrelevant (because you only define beliefs to be “intuition” if they are true, leaving us with the task of deciding somehow which intuition-like mental states are true and which are not.)
When I say “this intuition was wrong” – against what ‘gold standard’ of truth am I judging it?
I say: Unless there is a real world that exists and has certain features independently of the individual, then there is no point for us to continue our conversation, because every man is hopelessly locked in his own ineffable world.
Assuming that reality exists as I have asserted, the gold standard of truth is what (Western, at any rate) mankind has always held it to be: agreement with reality.
As I said, with any other metaphysics and epistemology, we are each of us truly on our owns.
@Alan – “So you are saying that intuitions cannot be mistaken”.
For Goodness sake – I said the opposite!
But I went on to say that the question does not really mean anything, because intuitions are inescapable. A mistake in one intuition is only discovered by testing against some other ‘evidence’ which must be based-on assumptions that will – when analyzed – be found to rest upon other intuition/s.
For example you say: ” I have asserted, the gold standard of truth is what (Western, at any rate) mankind has always held it to be: agreement with reality.”
So there we have it. You are making the assumption that “agreement with reality” (whatever ‘agreement’ and ‘reality’ currently happen to be – because these have changed again and again through recorded history – as far as we can tell) is the gold standard of truth…
Which in practice means that ‘history’ defines truth; because we cannot tell what ‘mankind has always held’ without getting involved with the discipline of history: matters of textual survival, recovery, translation, meaning, interpretation, inference etc.
Thus your *intuition* is that the gold standard of truth is… whatever ‘historians’ (some kind of consensus of the most prestigious historians – presumably) tell you that Men have ‘always’ regarded as reality.
OK – that is *your* intuition – but it is not obvious that it is a valid definition of truth, considering how historians disagree, are personally subject to many limitations, corruptions and distortions, how historical consensus keeps changing (due to new evidence, or just fashions) – and so forth.
In fact, you are going to have to use intuition to decide between historians – because you will find no clear guidance from them – or else/ as well you will have to decide who is a valid guide to the status of historians – so that’s another bunch of intuitions.
But mostly – why on earth should historians define what we believe? Why should historians decide the true nature of reality and of our relationship with God and Jesus Christ? I personally refuse to hand-over responsibility my immortal soul to… historians!
Intuition is inescapable – except by ignorance of its usage or dishonest denial. People in the past were not conscious of this, or only partially – but we are now; and that is why the traditionalism of the past has become impossible.
Any why this needs to be acknowledged by Christians – who, of all religions, should most value honesty.
A certain line concerning communication, taken from a classic movie, comes to mind…
I would say that since you are the innovator, and because people find your precise meaning hard to know, the responsibility lies with you to make your meaning more clear.
Also, your general thrust is not to refer to knowledge of Christianity taken from outside yourself. Therefore my mistake is understandable.
So you acknowledge that intuitions can be mistaken. Good. The next step is: by what means do we discern if our intuitions are mistaken? What role does an “outside world” play? Your writings make it sound an awful lot like it plays a minimal or nonexistent role.
I ask because I don’t find your answer to this question to be clear. You acknowledge the subjective part of verification, but not the objective part.
If you wish to look, my theory of epistemology is presented in its fullest public form here.
If you want to get straight to the epistemology, do a Ctrl-F search for “Presuppositions are not proved”
Executive summary: We do not just take someone else’s word for it. We do not even take our own intuition’s word for it. We have to test it. That is the subjective part: WE must test it. But the testing must end, for otherwise there is an infinite regression and we know nothing. The testing ends with what are called premises.
Bruce, is it possibly the case that the Fourth Gospel was actually written by John the Apostle and not, as you maintain, by Lazarus? Or is this not possible?
@Alan – The thing is – I have held essentially the same views in the past as you do now; so I am not really interested in revisiting them. Nor am I interested in expending energy trying to convince anyone who does not want to change his views, and seems mainly to be interested in refuting mine. That is a mug’s game, because it is so easy to dismiss *any* argument or evidence offered, especially when metaphysical premises are unshared – there is then no basis for rational discussion. I had more than enough of that game when I was a scientist! Nowadays, it’s metaphysics or nothing for me.
You call for change but offer no justification other than inviting individuals to emulate your subjective inner condition.
I ask the questions I ask because I subjectively desire answers I can respect. The issues you raise are of the deepest importance, and some of your answers are spot on if interpreted correctly, but your full system is wanting.
I also think that if your message were as important for mankind as you appear to believe that it is, you would make a greater effort to be understood, especially by sympathetic gadflies such as myself.
@Alan – I think you may mistaking me for somebody else!
I have, in fact, interacted with you pretty extensively including by e-mail, indeed probably more than with any other individual recently. My verdict is that you are keen to ask questions – and then more questions, especially when they involve me expending effort; but you have not, so far, done your homework.
If you are genuinely keen to learn about a different metaphysics, you will need to put in a great deal more effort and work on your side.
For example, I spent four+ years of hard thinking and reading on Mormon theology and metaphysics (c 2007-12) before getting-it; and a longer, albeit somewhat less intense, period for Owen Barfield (also Rudolf Steiner); despite that I have a taste for metaphysics, and was highly motivated to discover answers to questions of vital personal importance.
It’s not that the answers, one attained, are difficult (far from it!) – but that a lifetime of accumulated assumptions and ingrained habits takes a deal of shifting.
“If you are genuinely keen to learn about a different metaphysics, you will need to put in a great deal more effort and work on your side. “.
Problem is, that’s similar to what the kooks say. I need to know that you’re not just another kook.
You’ve already had a near-identical exchange here: https://orthosphere.wordpress.com/2022/01/31/creatio-ex-nihilo-atheism-or-manicheism-choose-but-one/
I’m not sure what else you want to hear.
I suppose I keep hoping Charlton will give a clear answer in a language I can understand.
Also, I think he’s wrong, and I am sort of trying to get Socratic with him. Not with any success, though.
You’ve arrived at Diogenes’ tub. What an opportunity!
Trust the Teacher and you’ll find Truth. If you really want to.
Jesus demonstrated his personal credentials and proved his claims with evidence. I expect other teachers at least to try to give evidence.
Alan wrote: “Jesus demonstrated his personal credentials and proved his claims with evidence. I expect other teachers at least to try to give evidence.”
As Dr Charlton said elsewhere, paraphrasing, take these insights as hypotheses – don’t take his (or Steiner’s) word for it – find out for sure, for yourself. Seek their validation and clarification through your own personal intuitions, which is the only thing which can make them really real. This may take some time, but you may find some or all the hypotheses confirmed.
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