Romantic Christianity versus Christianity Proper

To my recent post about Finding the True Way to Life, Bruce Charlton commented:

@Kristor – I find your post and comments both surprising and confusing! Your post concedes pretty much all the ground to Romantic Christianity; so that you seem to be advocating the same attitude to churches.

Your comment of July 25, 2022 at 4:49 AM suggests that any particular actual or manifest church (including the RCC) is ultimately ‘merely’ (secondarily) helpful or harmful – but never should be regarded as primary or decisive – precisely the Romantic Christian attitude.

And that the individual person’s intuitive knowledge of the mystical/spiritual/immaterial ‘church’ is all that *really* matters at the bottom line (albeit, I cannot distinguish this concept of ‘church’ from knowledge of deity – of God the Father/Jesus Christ/the Holy Ghost).

Most remarkably, you apparently regard the actual, worldly functioning of the Roman Catholic Church to be a matter of ultimate indifference to you! I.e., whether or not the RCC locks its churches; if it ceases to offer the mass, marriage, funerals; and if most of its bishops and priests focus their teachings on defending and endorsing … whatever policies the global totalitarian Establishment are currently pushing – you say:

I am not too troubled by all of this outward and merely formal ecclesial subjection to the tyrannical civil authority.

I suppose the crux is that you regard this as ‘merely’ formal submission. Yet when formal *and informal* RCC discourse overwhelmingly endorses – and indeed instructs – not just submission, but enthusiastic and active participation, over many years and increasingly … Well, I believe you are in error.

Altogether, I don’t [see] you are putting forward a coherent argument here – which may simply mean that you are in a transitional phase.

Indeed I hope so; because I find your casual, dismissive attitude to the RCC enthusiastic-self-shut-down of 2020 (etc.) to be abhorrent!

Like Archbishop Viganò; I regard 2020 as probably the worst disaster in the history of Christianity, an existential catastrophe, the significance of which can hardly be exaggerated.

These are all important points, and it is important that I respond to them cogently, and forthrightly. The first thing that I would say in response is that this latest travesty of the craven responses of the various church hierarchs to the mandates of the civil authorities in respect to the supposed crisis of covid is not our first rodeo of that sort. Things were much, much worse with the Church during the Black Death, a real pandemic:

… Black Death was an occasion of abandonment by Church and family alike. Normal practices of dying –ubiquitous in late medieval Europe – were replaced by getting rid of bodies. For most, there would be no viaticum, no last confession of sins, no Eucharistic liturgy praying for the dead, no procession from the home to the church and then to the grave. There was death, and death alone.

… Jesus Christ and his Church were therefore present throughout the lives of men and women. Especially in times of dying, when loved ones were carried home “together” to God. During the plagues, all of this disappeared. Liturgical feasts were postponed. Public processions ceased. The dead, even if buried in an orderly way, were not accompanied home to God.

What happened, for the most part, was abandonment. Now, this is not to say that every clergy member left his post, abandoning the city. It is clear, based on death rates, that many clergy died in the plague itself. The new mendicant orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, suffered a great number of deaths. But the entire liturgical-sacramental system of the Church, during the plague, was questioned. Who could hear the confessions and bring viaticum to the dying if there were no priests around? Worse, if the local priest fled the city for the sake of his own protection, what did this reveal about clerical commitment to the Church? Who would pray for the dying, especially if at least some family members abandoned their spouse, parents, or children? Remember the Cito, longe fugeas, tarde redeas?

We know, at least some ire during this time, was directed toward the Church. New lay movements came into existence including the flagellants. A pilgrim group of penitents, the flagellants roamed from town to town, thousands in number and engaged in public penance. A master – not a clergy member – would whip penitents, while they cried out in lamentation for the sins of the Church and the world. Flagellants, although not always beloved by city or Church, were greeted with enthusiasm by the faithful. With the challenge brought about to sacramental confession, with so many dead, what were people to do?

Stiff stuff, no? Covid is obviously nothing to the Black Death, but then we moderns are all complete pathetic pantywaists compared to our medieval forebears – or any other of our forebears, for that matter. This, not just in the realm of the ecclesial and spiritual, but in *every respect whatsoever.* So, covid looks to pantywaist moderns like the Black Death, when really it is much more like the flu or the common cold or a bad hangnail.

That this massive delusion has hold upon our peoples is no fault of the Church, except insofar as she has – like everything else human – been weakened by the last 500 years of sustained and relentless assaults upon her authority, and upon the traditional and classical metaphysics of all men prior to about 1500.

Excursus: The Romantic Christians delude themselves if they think they are somehow insulated from that attack. On the contrary, Romantic Christianity, which as one of its first premises discounts ecclesial authority per se – “see, the Church is imperfect here, and also there, and also in this other place” – is therefore to be numbered among the first salients of that attack. Not wittingly, of course. But then, Hell, good intentions, etc. Romantic Christians make themselves – I feel honestly, to be sure, and with the best will – enemies of the Church of Christ. They attack her. When per their avowed convictions, they should be supporting her, and indeed as needs be correcting her. Sad.

Excursus: I should not here perhaps forbear to mention that the Romantic Christians have been in the forefront of an attack on traditional Christian metaphysics, and so on Nicene Christianity, as she has been handed down to us from the Apostles, and indeed their ancestors and teachers the Patriarchs and Prophets, whose witness is consistent throughout the Old Testament. They argue, e.g., that God is not God – not eternal, not Absolute, not True, not as Ultimate therefore before all gods (Exodus 20:2-3) – but just a guy among many such other such guys – among such as we, indeed – who got super powerful among billions of other such gods because, well, reasons.

On Romantic Christianity, as propounded online, the *entirety* of Nicene Christianity is false.

Think about that. The whole of the Christian Tradition, according to the Romantics, is wrong. Polycarp, Origen, Clement, the Cappadocians, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Boethius, Anselm, Aquinas, Eckhardt, Maximos, Therese of Lisieux, Francis, Benedict, Dominic, the Cloude of Unknowing, the Philokalia, John of the Cross, Dante, Milton, George Herbert, Donne, Lewis, Tolkien: all of it just wrong. Evensong? Just wrong, and so a waste of time. Plus all the Councils, all the Popes, and all the mystics and theologians and doctors. Indeed, even all the Protestants: Luther, Hus, Calvin, Wycliffe, Cranmer. All of them, wrong.

The cathedrals? Wrong.

The Orthodox, the Catholics, and the Protestants, all of them wrong. Also the Copts, the Ethiopians, the Saint Thomas Christians, the Eastern Rite Christians, the rump Nestorians and Arians, if such there be. All of them, totally wrong. For, Jesus was just a guy. The whole of Christianity, for thousands of years, has totally misunderstood things, from before Nicea. All those bishops in AD 325 – on both sides of their debate – totally wrong.

Indeed, on the Romantic Christian reading, even Islam has got Jesus totally wrong. He was on their reading much less than what the Muslims take him to be.

It is a bit of a reach, no?

Just saying.

Covid is nothing near as dangerous as the Black Death, *of course.* But, misled by their modernity, moderns take it to be such; so they respond as if it were such. So they – among them the priests, all chthonic moderns despite themselves, and despite the ostensible and quite real costly commitments of their lives qua religious – react with panic. Just as their ancestors did, with far more justice than their heirs of today.

It is indeed all silly, and pathetic. Humanity. So silly, so pathetic. So sad. If only we could just all march steadfastly toward the scythe that awaits us all, without fear or trembling. But most of us can’t. It is the way of things, always.

It is almost impossibly difficult for a modern, steeped from birth in the notion that this life is all there is, to welcome martyry. Even the ancient pagans, hoping at the least for glory, had easier that basic sacrificial requisite of all mortal life, in which only it can find any meaning, any reason or purpose at all, and were therefore more ready to offer their lives on the altar that must at last claim us all, willy nilly (the recognition of our end, all of us, in some final immolation of sacrifice is among the most basic of adult human apprehensions; no sort of principled system of life can disagree with it). All life is formed by and toward death; this is manifest in the logic of sex, of biology, and indeed of physics; of thermodynamics.

The modern is of all men uniquely unequipped to cope with this basic predicament and problem of life per se. He hopes for an utopian escape from the Second Law. No such luck.

So here’s the question: does such foolishness of the Church in response either to the Black Death or to covid at all, in any way, vitiate the basic ecclesial proposal? Does it weaken the notion that among all human institutions the Church is uniquely the Body of Christ, and thus endowed with extraordinary spiritual authority, that the very Gates of Hell cannot withstand?

No. Obviously, it does not.

I had thought as I contemplated this post to expatiate a fair bit upon that point, but now that I come to it, the labor thereof seems moot. Augustine settled this point definitively in his logical demolition of the Donatist heresy of his day. Men are weak: the Church is not. Despite the weaknesses of her weak men, the Church is nowise weakened. For, the Church *just is* Christ. So, her sacraments depend for their efficacy, not upon the perfection of her imperfect human ministers, but rather upon the motions of God Almighty, who through them – despite their weaknesses – disposes of his church – as of his creation – as he wills to do from all eternity.

So, by all means, avail yourselves of her sacraments. The Church as the Body of the Eternal One can nowise be weakened or gainsayed by the weaknesses of her members. The Sacraments do not depend upon mere men, forsooth! To think so is a silly sophomoric category error. The Sacraments are a participation of God. They are not operations of mere men – for, that would make of them no more than profane magics – except inasmuch as such men in their operations partake the operations of God.

It is God who is in all things operant. Avail yourselves then of his operations, or else array yourselves in opposition to his just motions. That is all. What else, possibly, could there be? Get on with it, then, in fear and trembling.

This is for real, and you are nowise prepared for it. But, you must perforce get on with it. There is to life nothing else, than this.

All this talk about the crisis of the Church today in respect to covid and her responses to the state in respect thereto are but froth upon the tumult. Dive into the tumult. Dive into the Tao. Come back later with your reports, in all humility with respect to what they purport to represent to us.

27 thoughts on “Romantic Christianity versus Christianity Proper

  1. Man readily forgets that God has opened up a great mercy to him by drawing him into existence at such a moment in history when there are so many opportunities to pick up one’s cross and follow Christ and his Bride to Golgotha.
    My immediate reaction, as a 22 year old, is that basically most of these people who have stopped going to mass or are rebelling against holy mother church need to probably just start praying more in front of the blessed sacrament and doing more penance and more fasting. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad to see these over-the-top-academics so casually discussing grave sin as if it were a debate about chocolate versus vanilla ice cream.

  2. Covid aside the RCC has been in manifest heresy since Vatican I (that is what I meant, not a typo). Vatican II is only an extension of the heresies of Vatican I. In fact we could argue it goes further back to the theory that the pope can call councils and proclaim them as ecumenical without the East. But although the RCC may have been functionally heretical prior to Vatican I, Vatican I put it into material heresy by defining papal infallibility and the immaculate conception of Mary as dogma in violation of all tradition and scripture. All Catholics are going to hell, traditionalists too, not just novus ordites.

  3. First, I want to say that I really appreciate the way you explain Catholic theology, doctrine, & etc. – there have been several of your long posts (and responses to comments), which I have found very helpful to increasing my understanding and ‘undoing’ some of the cultural assumptions I had fallen prey to.

    Anyway, just FYI, not all “Romantic Christians” subscribe to that Mormonistic concept of ‘humans being co-existent with God prior to Creation’ (it has a highly egotistic ‘flavor’ to my mind)…
    Though, I will own that I believe in the possibility of reincarnation, mainly because it makes sense to me that God might decide ‘to send some people back’ for some ineffable reason or other.

    • Thanks, Carol. It is good to learn that what we do here is useful to someone out there.

      … not all “Romantic Christians” subscribe to that Mormonistic concept of ‘humans being co-existent with God prior to Creation’ …

      To be sure. But, that is not the only thing that would make them unwilling and unwitting adversaries of Christianity, for I take it to be pretty much universal among Romantic Christians to think that the Church is somehow irrelevant to salvation – “secondary,” as Bruce puts it. But in this, they radically mistake the ecclesiology of *all* the Christian thinkers and schools I cited in my excursus above, for all of them, and the entire Christian tradition from the beginning, have taken the Church to be the Body of Christ. The Church is not *necessary* to salvation, certainly, for God is not limited to her manifest operations, and can save whomsoever he likes, no matter what their ecclesial circumstances. But, nevertheless, and provided the sinner cooperates with her manifest operations, the Church is sure to be *sufficient* to salvation. John 6:51.

      God is not embodied or effective only in the Church (indeed, it runs the other way). But he is indeed embodied and effective in the Church. So, being the Body of God, the Church is by no means secondary to anything.

      She is the *Body of God,* for Pete’s sake.

      It is true that the sinner’s cooperation is necessary to the soteriological success of the Church in her operations. But this is so regardless of the sinner’s ecclesial circumstances. Sinners are in a state of rebellion, whether or not churched; and the state of rebellion prevents their salvation, by any means whatever. So, it could be said that the sinner’s cooperation with the Will of God and the operations inmost to himself of divine ubiquitous Grace is a sine qua non of salvation. But let it never be said that because he has the ability either to accept or reject God – i.e., to sin, or not – the sinner is therefore prior to God in any respect whatever, so that God (whether as manifest in his Body the Church, or as manifest everywhere else) is then rendered somehow secondary to the sinner. That misprision of the metaphysical realities would suggest to the sinner that he is himself prior to God, or at least equal to him. And that is the damnable damning error of Lucifer. Indeed, it is the very spring of sin per se. It is a violation of the First Commandment.

      As to reincarnation, you will I think be charmed to learn that there is something of the sort at work in the Tradition, albeit without all the Hindu baggage of karma etc. Remember that Elijah never died, but ascended to Heaven in a chariot of fire (this is the Merkavah chariot of the Hebrew mystical ascent common to all apocalyptic literature; with the difference that (unlike Isaiah, say) Elijah never returned from his ascent). II Kings 2:1-18. The Israelites believed the witness of his student Elisha, and of the prophetic school of Elisha (of which he became abbot at the departure of Elijah). It became traditional among the Hebrews then to expect that Elijah would appear to Israel again as a forerunner of the Messiah (as, indeed, he did, on the Mount of Transfiguration). This is why the emissaries of the Temple authorities asked John Baptist whether he was Elijah. John 1:21.

      John also denied at that time that we was himself the Messiah. He well knew by then – having been from his own childhood privy to the familiar and cultic (Essene) lore about Jesus – exactly who Jesus was. When his cousin appeared at the Jordan, John was not surprised – for they had known each other from before birth – but glad. He did not at that moment *learn* about Jesus, but *recognized* him, publicly.

      This is why in stained glass windows of apses all over Christendom, John Baptist and Mary are shown at either side of Jesus. They knew, and they both witnessed, before Jesus himself ever did.

      Anyway, as to reincarnation in the Hebrew tradition, it was not a resumption of one mortal life in another, but rather a new instantiation of the soul of such a life. Soul, remember, is a Platonic form; or, in Hebrew terminology, a type. So, it was not as though the Temple authorities suspected that John Baptist was Elijah himself, period full stop. Rather, they suspected that he might be a type or image of Elijah: a new life, in which the type or form of Elijah was particularly expressed.

      There is nothing particularly spooky or weird in such a reinstantiation of the type of Elijah. Indeed, at bottom it is no more mysterious in principle than the reinstantiation in Erik or Manuel of the type of the plumber. Elijah himself was a reinstantiation of the ancient type of the prophet. As a church chorister, I am a reinstantiation of the type of Levi; as a father, I instantiate Adam. All the Jews of today are instances of the type of their forefather Abraham; this is what is meant by the House of Abraham; all of Israel is the Body of Abraham, who is instantiate in all the Jews – and, now, in all the Christians.

      Fun stuff. Not quite as literal as the Hindu notion, but still … John Baptist might not have been Elijah himself, in person, but he has by the Church been ever taken as an Image of Elijah. This, in *exactly the same way* that the Church has ever taken all humans to be Images of the Lógos.

      So: not quite reincarnation, as in the resumption of a single earthly life after a period of death; but, rather, repeated incarnation of a personal type.

      • “As to reincarnation, you will I think be charmed to learn that there is something of the sort at work in the Tradition, albeit without all the Hindu baggage of karma etc. ”

        Some Near Death experiences involve the Mandala Wheel of Souls very consistent with the Hindu Cosmology:

        Not all Near Death experiences involve experiencing God, Heaven and the Angels

  4. The churches shut themselves down as an attack on Christianity, an attack on Good, for the purpose of creating a situation in which the primary is subordinated to the secondary, the Christian is subordinated to the expedient. The churches shut themselves down for the perversion of it. The system creatures posing as clergy put the church itself beneath some nonsense media narrative, for that very purpose. The harm isn’t collateral damage; the harm is the point.

    It’s like society generally with antiracism, abortion, trans; the purpose is self-harm. To harm themselves and thereby put their Value beneath non-Value, or the less valuable. Value in the Transcendentals sense of Truth, Beauty, Goodness. The point is to put Lucifer atop Michael with themselves.

    The churches didn’t shut themselves down as a consequence of some sort of spontaneous threat perception having to do with a disease. To even believe in a serious disease threat requires evil alignment with the evil system!

    In today’s world, choices present themselves that have to do with aligning with this purposive destruction type of evil or not. The jab has this character; will you sit down, roll up your sleeve and poison yourself, sterilize yourself, poison your unborn child even. Or will you reject the black mass?

  5. I regard 2020 as probably the worst disaster in the history of Christianity, an existential catastrophe, the significance of which can hardly be exaggerated.

    The Romantics should just accept that many on the Orthosphere can and do rightly disagree with this premise and move on. Stop with the constant attempts at proselyting and attacking the Catholic Church and instead make a positive case for their philosophy.

    As a traditional Catholic I find Traditionis Custodes infinitely more troubling than any of the fallout from COVID-19. It is unclear to me how the Romantics can really speak to the problems stemming from TC or Vatican II generally. As I and others in these threads have argued, the triumph of modernism in the Catholic Church is really the triumph of ideas strikingly similar to ones espoused by the Romantics themselves.

    While placing a central emphasis on the individual and his powers of intuition and discernment, the Romantic’s own record here at the Orthosphere leads a lot to be desired. We had Romantics saying that Brexit portended the birth of a new Christian Age in the UK. Can anyone seriously believe that now six years on? The UK is even more rotten than it ever was. The UK plays a central part, along with their U.S. cousins in stoking the flames of WW3 in the Ukraine. This while many of the Eurozone countries have proven more circumspect in the conflict.

    We also had Romantics ardently claiming that Mormons were one of the last lights shining out in the postmodern darkness. Mormon theology on the family made them uniquely equipped to fight progressivism we were told. Much as they claim now with Romanticism, we were told that we had to abandon Christianity in favor of Mormonism. Traditional Christian practices of celibacy and monasticism were outmoded and “didn’t work”. Yet, last week, every single conservative Mormon representative from Utah in the U.S. House voted in favor of enshrining gay marriage into American law. This is not to mention how Mormons have (uniquely) on the Right attempted to stifle the populist outburst under Donald Trump, which for better or worst (and unlike Brexit) represented one of the most serious threats to progressive liberalism and American imperialism in decades. Mormons have returned to their roots of undermining Christian marriage in America.

    Last month it took a majority of Catholics to smash one of the great idols of progressive liberalism in the form of overturning Roe v. Wade. I realize that some around here might bemoan the supposed eugenic consequences of overturning infanticide but I for one see it as a great victory and a sign that good things are still possible. Again, what could the Romantics possibly say to this? They constantly harp on the fact that all institutions are “net evil” and that we should instead abandon them in favor of some form of individual resistance. If people had taken the advice of Romantics a lot of good (like Dobbs) would not have been possible. SCOTUS was a corrupt tyrannical institution until it took the efforts of (mainly Catholic activists in the pro-life movement) decades with many setbacks and betrayals to overturn the satanic Roe v. Wade decision. If people had listened to the Mormons or Romantics, Hilary Clinton would be enjoying her second term now. This I hope puts in perspective the Romantic’s claims to legitimacy based on their ability to discern the supposed evils of the lockdowns

    The Romantics were either unable or unwilling to see how their own extreme form of individualism is complicit with many of the evils we are forced to contend with. This is not to say that the historic Romantics can’t forward good arguments or bring good perspectives. But when Romantics attack the Catholic Church, they should be aggressively opposed.

    • I am a Catholic and I don’t mind for the Romantics to attack the Catholic Church if they do it with arguments backed by evidence. Then, we can discuss if these arguments are sound or not. If they are sound, I am the one that is mistaken and I am the one that should change my views and stop being Catholic. I am Nobody: the important thing is the Truth.

      But the Romantic methodology is not this one. The Romantics reach a conclusion by intuition. It is true because they think intuition is always connected to the divine. Then they find arguments to rationalize this conclusion. Of course, like any other rationalization, the arguments do not make sense. When you point that out, they repeat the argument. It is proof by assertion.

      The main argument of the Romantics is: “there has been an evolution of consciousness, so old forms of Christianity are obsolete”. But this is completely against the evidence. It is obvious that Western man has regressed in the spiritual realm. Nobody could say that modern man is spiritually superior to his ancestors (he is technologically superior but not spiritually superior). In addition, even if an evolution of conscience had happened, you would have to justify that old forms cannot accommodate this evolution of consciousness. And even if you justified this, you would have to justify that your way (the radical individualism of the Romantics) is the best solution out of all possible solutions.

      The second argument of the Romantics is “most churches have been infiltrated and the other ones are going to be infiltrated.” I agree with that, but you still have to argue that churches are not necessary for salvation. If a body has cancer, this does not mean that the body is not necessary for living. This is a non-sequitur. Even if you proved that churches are not necessary, you would still have to prove that the radical individualism of the Romantics is the way to go, out of all possible solutions.

      However, what really bothers me about the Romantics is that they still call their religious positions “Christianity.” They have been drifting away from Christianity for years. The first stop was Mormonism. The second stop is Romanticism and the journey goes on. New intuitions are produced in a regular way, are recorded on the Internet and are incorporated into the Romantic dogmas, separating Romanticism from Christianity even more.

      IMHO, what we are witnessing is the birth of a new religion, originated in Christianity. The same way Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism were born starting from the religion of the Old Testament. The same way Mormonism was born starting from Protestant Christianity and Bahaism was born starting from Shia Islam. Romanticism is a new faith born from Protestant Christianity (with touches of Mormonism), that takes some fundamental pillars of Christianity and rejects other fundamental pillars of Christianity. IMHO, it takes the individualism of the Reformation to its ultimate logical consequence, rejecting other aspects of Protestantism and Christianity in general. Romanticism has very much in common with our official religion, Liberalism (which was also born from Christianity), because of its emphasis in the individual as the ultimate judge of the truth.

      Every new religion starts from a set of revelations (which can be intuitions) and starts a self-referential world, whose pillars are not in discussion. For example, in Christianity, one of the pillars is that the path to salvation is one (given by Christ) and the individual has to submit to it. There are disagreements if the True Path to Salvation is the Catholic one, the Orthodox one, or the different doctrines of the different Protestant churches. But the fact that there is a unique True Path to Salvation independent from the individual is a pillar of the Christian faith.

      If you reject this, you may be right or wrong, but you are not a Christian. You could say you are an individual Christian, a modern Christian, that you are a Christian without Greek philosophy, but you are only playing with the language. When you say “Christianity” you mean some other thing than what 99.99% of people say when they say “Christianity.” So why do you use the same word to describe different concepts?

      I could say I am a modern Muslim: I follow Mohammed but I reject the Qur’an. But “modern Muslim” is only a weasel word to say “a kind of non-Muslim.” So it is better to be honest and tell “I am not a Muslim, I think the Truth lies elsewhere”. Otherwise, we are discussing about words and not about concepts. It is the same linguistic strategy when progressive people say that Richard Levine is a woman, a trans woman. In this case, a trans woman means “a kind of non-woman.” So calling him “a woman” is only muddying the waters.

      To have a productive debate, we have to use the terms in their traditional understanding, instead of trying to hide changes of concept by redefining traditional words. If we say that, from now on, cats are going to be called “feline dogs,” then any discussion about the common characteristics of dogs becomes extremely difficult. Do dogs bark? Well, non-feline dogs do, but feline dogs do not. Do women menstruate? Well, cis women do but trans women do not. Does Christianity require a community? Well, traditional Christianity does but Romantic Christianity does not. It is better to call different things by different names and preserve the traditional understanding of traditional words. Dogs are called “dogs” and cats are called “cats.” Then, we can discuss about the truth without having to discuss about words.

      • Thanks, Imnobody, for this thoughtful comment. As with the others who have posted lengthy and valuable contributions to these discussions, I appreciate all the labor that went into your work.

        I have no disagreements or quibbles with your arguments, but a few thoughts occurred to me as I read.

        First, the Romantic suggestion that man’s consciousness has evolved so as to endow him with greater spiritual ability, thus obsolescing church, is difficult to square with the fact that, as Bruce Charlton has pointed out, average intelligence has been steadily falling since modern medicine kicked in. Evolution does not necessarily generate improvements!

        The increase of religious nones and of New Agers, who are “spiritual but not religious” – a concise description, NB, of Romantic Christianity – looks to me like a consequence of several factors. Steady marginal reduction in average intelligence is one of them, I feel certain. Like most important ideas, Christian doctrine is hard to understand, and almost nobody tries to understand it – or even get clear on what it is – before they give up on it.

        Concurrent with that development has been a collapse of catechesis in almost all the churches, that has compounded over the course of the 20th century. The delta is obvious when one compares hymns written by church ladies of 1850 with hymns written by pastors of 2000. The former are generally crammed with what today would appear as massive erudition. The latter are pabulum, when they manage to make sense as English.

        A similar delta is observable in the sermon texts of 1850, versus those of today.

        But then, the same goes for letters home from the front written by uneducated soldiers of the Civil War, versus those of today. The collapse of catechesis in the churches is their version of the collapse of education in general.

        There has been a like degradation in *every other aspect of performance,* both of individuals and of organizations. As organizations grow ever less functional, individuals are forced more and more to rely upon their own intellectual resources to navigate and increasingly complex world, more and more bound up by rules. The internet amplified that process of forced disintermediation from inept organizations by several orders of magnitude. It made the disintermediation doable for the first time; and it increased the volume of information apparently relevant to any given decision by a practically infinite amount. It is only natural that individuals should more and more give up and take the quintessentially modern approach: “Whatever!”

        Another factor driving the general social and personal degradation: compounding philosophical flaccidity, in the forms of liberalism, materialism, and nominalism. Those notions are all much simpler than the classical ontology, morality, and epistemology that they replaced (but did not ever refute). Indeed, their relative parsimony is the chief argument proposed in their defense. Because they are so much simpler than the comprehensive philosophical systems they superseded, they are much easier for stupid or lazy minds to adopt as their governing paradigms. They enable midwits to feel as though they understand things pretty doggone well.

        Thus to say that the churches have been infiltrated is to say only that they are almost all quite full of moderns. So, naturally, their hierarchs make decisions the way moderns tend to make them. The solution is not more modernism – is not more social atomization, such as the Romantic Christians recommend to us. The solution is Tradition.

        A last thought: the obeisance of the hierarchs before the dictates of the civil authorities in respect to covid is an exact formal analogue of the obeisance of much of the North African hierarchy during the Diocletian persecution. In both cases, the hierarchs defaulted from their ecclesial duties, although the case was much, much more acute for the North African Christians: the traditores among them felt obliged by their civil circumstances during the persecution to hand over their scriptures to the civil authorities as a sign of their repudiation of the Christian faith. They had to *repudiate Christ,* in public, and explicitly.

        The Donatists argued that, having repudiated the Church and their ecclesial offices, the traditores were no longer ordained priests, and so could not validly administer sacraments, even if they had recanted their apostasy and returned to the faith. Donatism was condemned as a heresy by Rome and was rejected by the rest of the Church; it flourished for a time only in North Africa.

        In arguing that hierarchical compliance with public health orders of the civil authorities renders the churches radically illegitimate, the Romantic Christians are the formal analogues of the Donatists.

      • I can’t comment on which version of Christianity is preferable, but this caught my eye.

        Another factor driving the general social and personal degradation: compounding philosophical flaccidity, in the forms of liberalism, materialism, and nominalism. Those notions are all much simpler than the classical ontology, morality, and epistemology that they replaced (but did not ever refute). Indeed, their relative parsimony is the chief argument proposed in their defense. Because they are so much simpler than the comprehensive philosophical systems they superseded, they are much easier for stupid or lazy minds to adopt as their governing paradigms

        I’m not sure why anyone would think that liberalism, materialism, and nominalism are simple or easy. They are all, on the contrary, very counterintuitive and require a good deal of training to accept. They all require violations of native common sense, and may ultimately be unworkable because of that – a thought which should cheer their enemies, like yourself.

        Liberalism, for instance, requires that one transcend the natural feeling that one’s own belief system is the only correct one, and acknowledge that other people, who believe different things, might be correct, or at the very least, that one must respect their beliefs, whatever that might mean. That goes against the basic human instinct to think that one’s own culture defines the right way to be, full stop. It requires adhering to an abstract ideal of common humanity that is always under attack by the forces of racial, national, religious, and ethnic hatred. Tolerance, as its opponents love to point out, contains a basic paradox in implementation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance Resolving this kind of inner contradiction is the opposite of easy.

        Nominalism requires dropping the common sense view that words simply designate objective categories, and requires becoming aware of the artificiality and constructed nature of concepts. Most people can’t be bothered to do this, and why should they? It’s much simpler to assume that words simply mean what they mean, and not go delving into the edge cases or the social processes involved in how their meanings get defined and changed.

        And even if you manage to accept these counterintuitive ideas, you are left with a lot of work to do. Tolerance requires work. Interrogating received concepts is work. So I can’t really buy the idea that laziness accounts for the success of liberalism etc. Doesn’t seem to fit the facts.

        Conservatism, now, that I can see how it would appeal to the lazy. How relaxing it must feel to just have things stay the same, to know that tomorrow will be much like yesterday, that the truths of 2000 years ago are the same as the truths of today, and that things simply are what they are. Modernism involves constant change, and it’s wearying keeping up, how nice it would be if things would just settle down and be the one way they are supposed to be. The modern world is shot through with uncertainty and profound anxiety, how nice if all that could be banished by adherence to some absolute frame of reference.

      • We of the Orthosphere would say that liberalism is easier than its various opponents because it absolves one of the obligation to examine the evidence and decide which Way is best. Liberalism say that the only invalid Way is the way of saying that some ways are better than others. No examination or evaluation are needed, other than checking for “intolerance.”

        Conservatism can be a lazy way too, but, especially these days, it can also be be a way of rigor and hardship. Since the Spirit of the Times is set against the former traditions of our nation, a conservatism that tries to identify what is good in the traditions and to maintain them in the face of intense hostility is not lazy.

      • Those are all fair points, a.morphous. But, no.

        I’m not sure why anyone would think that liberalism, materialism, and nominalism are simple or easy.

        Liberalism, materialism and nominalism are simple in principle because in their various ways they all assert that there is no ascertainable Truth, so no worries about figuring out what the Truth is and then conforming your acts thereto. It is easy to generalize from the indubitable fact that everyone sees the world from an unique perspective to the notion that there is no perspective that is more accurate than any other. This move moots the effort to figure out the right thing to do, and then do it.

        People are still stuck with the practical necessity of figuring out and doing the right thing, of course. That’s life. This is why liberals are forced to so many unprincipled exceptions in order to get on from one day to the next. The profound and unrelieved cognitive dissonance these constantly maintained incoherences generate, at great cost to the psychic economy, account for much of the abnormally high rates of mental and emotional disorder among liberals.

        Liberalism, materialism and nominalism look easy prima facie. But, in practice, as you say, they turn out to be deeply maladaptive, deleterious, and miserable.

        Prima facie, the proposition that while each of us has an unique perspective, there is a Best way to see things, to which it behooves us to approximate as best we can, seems much more difficult. But in practice it works out better. It is both easier, mutatis mutandis, and more salubrious. Plus it lines up well both with common sense and with science construed in the broadest terms, as the project of human knowing. “Lines up well” meaning, “makes common sense and science possible.”

        The paradox of tolerance that besets Liberalism and demonstrates its fundamental incoherence, is replicated with materialism and nominalism. If as nominalism proposes there are no universals, then nominalism is not universally true; which is just to say that it is false. If as materialism proposes there are only material things, then there are no ideas, such as the idea of materialism; so, on materialism, there is no such thing as materialism.

        So, yeah, I guess I agree with you: liberalism, materialism and nominalism are easier in prospect – so that, as I pointed out, they are attractive to weak or slothful intellects – but, as you say, impossibly difficult to carry into practice. Meanwhile traditionalism and realism look harder in prospect, but in practice are lots easier, all things considered. It’s like my Dad always said: the lazy man’s way is the hard way.

      • Liberalism, materialism and nominalism are simple in principle because in their various ways they all assert that there is no ascertainable Truth, so no worries about figuring out what the Truth is and then conforming your acts thereto.

        That capital T is doing an awful lot of work. It’s true, l-m-n (I am too lazy to spell them out) don’t believe in truth with a capital T, but they do believe in small-t truth, that is, the actual kinds of knowledge that people have and use in the course of practical activity. The problems of life remain what they are whether you solve them with Truth or with the more modest truth.

        Liberalism, materialism and nominalism look easy prima facie. But, in practice, as you say, they turn out to be deeply maladaptive, deleterious, and miserable.

        That is nothing like what I said, of course.

        The paradox of tolerance that besets Liberalism and demonstrates its fundamental incoherence, is replicated with materialism and nominalism.

        The paradoxes of l-m-n are both a strength and a weakness. The weakness part you can articulate for yourself; the strength is due to the simple fact that they are a better match to reality, paradoxes and all.

        If modernity was maladaptive, it would die out on its own. May happen yet, not because of “incoherence”, that’s just silly, but because the essence of modernity is industrial capitalism which seems to bear the seeds of its own destruction.

      • The problems of life remain what they are whether you solve them with Truth or with the more modest truth.

        To be sure. But any such solution on a parochial and thus insofarforth defective truth is bound to be somehow a bit defective, and thus maladaptive, wrong, sinful – all the various appellations that various cults have adhered to such errors. Only Truth might possibly and completely suffice to our predicaments. If there be no such thing, then truly and utterly are we doomed.

        Liberalism, materialism and nominalism look easy prima facie. But, in practice, as you say, they turn out to be deeply maladaptive, deleterious, and miserable.

        That is nothing like what I said, of course.

        But it is nevertheless true. And it is implicit in what you did say – and in what you did not. You limned the alternative of the holistic, rationalistic, realistic Right when you wrote of it:

        How relaxing it must feel to just have things stay the same, to know that tomorrow will be much like yesterday, that the truths of 2000 years ago are the same as the truths of today, and that things simply are what they are. Modernism involves constant change, and it’s wearying keeping up, how nice it would be if things would just settle down and be the one way they are supposed to be. The modern world is shot through with uncertainty and profound anxiety, how nice if all that could be banished by adherence to some absolute frame of reference.

        Yeah, that’s pretty much what it’s like to be a man or woman of the Right. If x is true, then x is just true, no? How reassuring. What, are you going to argue with that?

        It’s nice to be of the Right, because there are for us so many things we needn’t worry about, that your sort must forever fash over without any possibility of settlement upon a solution. I mean to say, not just the Orthospherean Right, but even the Right Liberal Right: calm, settled, basically at peace despite the challenges of daily life. So nice not to feel, existentially, that we have no fundamental foundation whatever. So nice to feel that we do have such a foundation. So nice then just to get on with things, without worry that we are especially oppressed, but indeed rather in complete confidence that while we are on the one hand ontologically oppressed, as the very condition of our worldly life, nevertheless are we on the other given the grace of salvation, so that our present ontological oppression is not forever dispositive of the character of our lives.

        So nice. It’s a relaxing feeling. I recommend it. You would like it, I feel sure.

        The paradox of tolerance that besets Liberalism and demonstrates its fundamental incoherence, is replicated with materialism and nominalism.

        The paradoxes of l-m-n are both a strength and a weakness. The weakness part you can articulate for yourself; the strength is due to the simple fact that they are a better match to reality, paradoxes and all.

        Dude, think. A paradoxical state of affairs *can’t* be a coherent state of affairs. So, it can’t be realized actually. As contradicting itself, it rules itself out. Come on, man! This is kid stuff.

        If modernity was maladaptive, it would die out on its own. May happen yet, not because of “incoherence,” that’s just silly, but because the essence of modernity is industrial capitalism which seems to bear the seeds of its own destruction.

        No argument. As you say, modernity bears the seeds of its own destruction (whether or not via capitalism of any sort, which has after all, being no more than exchange and the store and allocation of surplus – of capital – been present and operative in human civilization ab initio, as essential thereto). Insanity devours itself, one way or another. This has always been one of our main points here at the Orthosphere.

      • Only Truth might possibly and completely suffice to our predicaments. If there be no such thing, then truly and utterly are we doomed.

        I hate to break it to you, but we are doomed. We are finite beings and we live our finite lives with the help of finite, local, conditioned, truths. The end awaits us all.

        To be sure, some religions offer an alternative view – that we are not finite, but enjoy eternal life after this one is over. This seems like childish fantasy to me, but at any rate it doesn’t matter, because our predicaments are not in heaven, but here.

        Yeah, that’s pretty much what it’s like to be a man or woman of the Right. If x is true, then x is just true, no? How reassuring. What, are you going to argue with that?

        It’s perfectly fine if you are a completely unreflective dolt, I suppose. I’m not, and I don’t believe you are either. In fact, you are just as modern as I am. You can’t help it, you live in the same historical moment that I do. The fact that you think about modernity as a *thing*, and think you can pick and choose among belief systems – well, that is the most modern thing ever. Or postmodern I suppose. You are fatally infected with critical reflexivity, no matter how much you might hate it. Once you allow that people can choose their underlying belief system, you are already lost. Once you start making arguments against modernity based on pragmatic considerations (eg, that it will supposedly make you unhappy) you are already lost.

        You crave certainty, and I guess you believe you have achieved it. But I think in your heart you know better. You are just as unmoored as the rest of us. I have to give you credit for trying to address the problem, even if I can’t accept your solution.

        At any rate, I think you have a fairly weak understanding of what modernity is. You seem to regard it as some kind of giant mistake, a wrong turn driven by laziness, stupidity, or sinfulness, and as such it is something we are should just turn away from, and get back to those sturdy old fashioned premodern ways of thinking that worked so much better.

        This just seems wrong on a fundamental level, in this sense: no matter how much you might despise modernity and all of its works, it isn’t a mere choice that can be unchosen, it’s a particular global historical development that was driven by the circumstances of history (capitalism and industrialization being the chief engines of change). Nobody chose it, and nobody can unchoose it. The best we can do is recognize its faults and either modify it or wait for it to collapse and build something new in the wreckage. We can’t go backward. And whatever modernity is, it isn’t static, it is still happening, and its endpoint is unknown.

      • Thanks, a.morphous. These are, truly, some good points that you make. Nevertheless, they hoist themselves on their own petards, to comic effect.

        Only Truth might possibly and completely suffice to our predicaments. If there be no such thing, then truly and utterly are we doomed.

        I hate to break it to you, but we are doomed.

        Oh noes! Really? I never knew that! How could I have overlooked it? In the long run we are all dead, and so never mind the next five minutes! Woe is me! My arguments are for naught!

        In the long run we are all dead. But if our notions of reality are crazed, we are dead in the short run.

        We are finite beings and we live our finite lives with the help of finite, local, conditioned truths.

        Is that a finite, local, conditioned truth, or is it simply and absolutely true? I mean, I’m ready to grant that it is simply and absolutely true; but, in that case, we live our finite lives with the help of at least some infinite, nonlocal, unconditional truths.

        You see the autophagic problem with your position, no?

        I suppose not. If you did, you would not persist in proposing it here, or a fortiori in your own intellect.

        Oh, well; I shall demolish it yet again. Not that you will learn from this, but others might.

        If there is no Truth, or if there is no way for us to begin to understand it, then obviously – any dolt can see this, surely – there is no way to be right, about anything – or wrong, to boot. In that case, all knowledge is impossible, and so there is no way we can succeed *at anything whatsoever.* Success in that case is an empty category. That is what I meant by saying that, “truly & utterly are we doomed.”

        The counterexample to this proposal, obvious to the most stupid fool of the cosmos, is that *from time to time we do succeed at this or that.* A bit, at least.

        Forsooth!

        A.morphous succeeded at posting a comment at the Orthosphere. There was a success! So, QED: a.morphous must be wrong that, because there can be no knowledge of the fact of any matter, there can be no successes that proceed upon knowledge.

        He proposes that there can, rather, be only this or that thing that happenstantially proceeds upon what happenstantially preceded it, without any rhyme or reason or causal sense.

        So silly. Anyone familiar with math and natural history, and a fortiori with the spooky agreement of math and natural history, must find this a.morphic notion of things fantastic; indeed, psychotic.

        A.morphous is himself familiar with all this intellectual territory, I feel sure; he’s an amazingly smart and informed guy. Draw then your own conclusions about the sanity of his beliefs.

        … our predicaments are not in heaven, but here.

        A telling point, to be sure. But it presupposes that our eventual heavenly predicaments are nowise relevant here below. I.e., it presupposes that our present predicaments have no heavenly sequelae. It is a circular argument. So, it is a stupid argument.

        The fact that you think about modernity as a *thing,* and think you can pick and choose among belief systems – well, that is the most modern thing ever.

        So anachronistic. The early Christians took quite a conscious and costly decision about their beliefs. Choosing beliefs is not only a modern thing. It is a human thing.

        You are fatally infected with critical reflexivity, no matter how much you might hate it.

        To think that this is a peculiarly modern phenomenon is to misunderstand humanity. Humans *just are* critically reflexive. Duh. You think you are so different in that respect from Zoroaster and his followers, for the love of God? Sheesh. The entire human discourse about evil, as ancient as writing, is a sustained exercise in critical reflection.

        Once you allow that people can choose their underlying belief system, you are already lost.

        Dude, don’t you know *anything* about humans? The *entire point* of such discussions as those in which we here engage is that humans *can* choose their beliefs, and indeed *must do so.* This is not a modern development. Viz., the entire history of paganism in its various sorts in the Roman Empire circa AD 150, versus Christians and Jews of that time (and Gnostics, Eleusinians, Mithraists, on and on). All of Christianity, and all of all other systems of belief whatsoever, presuppose this obvious fact. All of history, going as far back as it goes, testifies to this. You are no fool, so you see this, right?

        It is the very core of human history: which basic notions shall inform our society? That is the basic, quintessentially human question. War is a way of answering it. So is almost everything else human.

        Once you start making arguments against modernity based on pragmatic considerations (e.g., that it will supposedly make you unhappy) you are already lost.

        Why? If modernity doesn’t work, it *must* be wrong somehow. To suggest otherwise is just to fall into foolish error. What does not succeed in practice – as modernity manifestly does not – must not comport with reality. For, what cuts reality at her true joints does indeed work, better than the alternatives. Where’s the difficulty with this?

        Why is it only modernity that can take pragmatic considerations into account? Why is it that premodernity, or for that matter true postmodernity (that is not, i.e., just modernity on steroids), cannot be pragmatic? Indeed, the fundamental argument for tradition is that it is the time tested pragmatic finding of many thousands of years of trials against obdurate reality. On modernity’s supposed pragmatic terms, tradition ought to be the bomb. That modernity thinks it is not indicates that modernity is not interested in what works, but rather only in what feels good in the short term.

        You crave certainty, and I guess you believe you have achieved it. But I think in your heart you know better.

        I do crave certainty. Of course. So do you. To do otherwise would be perverse, idiotic, and inhuman (and, for that matter, inanimate; inorganic (for, what: is a system of any sort to seek its own chaotic demise?)). But in his heart, no Christian believes he has yet attained it. Philippians 2:12. To suppose otherwise is one of those tiresome stupid ignorant modernist tropes about Christianity.

        Think now what it would mean for a man to determine that he had achieved total certainty about something. Unless his certainty were validly derived from some necessary truths of logic, maths, or metaphysics, could he have any sure confidence that he had succeeded, in that? No; not unless he were mad, and indeed a psychopath. Matters of opinion – the stuff of Sophist relativism – do not even count in deliberation about matters of this sort.

        Consider then that your own basic commitment to uncertainty, evident even in your nom de plume, is evidence of a deep psychic malady.

        Just saying, and with all love for you, my friend. Also, not saying that I myself am by any means so different. On the contrary. We are all, on my account, together likewise sinners, and fools, and seeing through glasses darkly, and struggling toward the Light.

        Our difference lies in the fact that you do not believe there to be any such Light. So, you struggle, but unlike me, and all such as I, you struggle pointlessly, thus stupidly, bootlessly, and so lethally. On your account, everything ends in death, so why not just go ahead and die?

        The Christian proposition is not that we may by ourselves obtain certainty – that is the Pelagian heresy – but rather that certainty is out there to begin with, a certain, sure fact about reality, so that by the grace of God we have some hope of approximation thereto. If there be no such certainty out there, then are we indeed all utterly doomed, not just at the end of our lives, but at the end of this very moment, and of every other.

        If we can’t be certain of anything, why then we can’t act, at all. We can act, we find; ergo, etc. Denial of the consequent is a powerful thing … nothing like that good old logical validity.

        You are just as unmoored as the rest of us.

        Projection alert! Sorry, a.morphous, but no. Your proposal is that there is no mooring out there to be had. Mine is that there is, and that I am trying to moor myself thereto. So, while I may be grasping at my proper mooring, at least I think it is out there to be grasped. You don’t. So, you are at the whim of the latest current. You don’t want a mooring. You want to just go where the current takes you. You have then *no agency.* You cannot even thrash.

        Funny then that your sort thrashes so much more than our sort. Funny.

        … modernity … isn’t a mere choice that can be unchosen, it’s a particular global historical development that was driven by the circumstances of history. Nobody chose it, and nobody can unchoose it. The best we can do is recognize its faults and either modify it or wait for it to collapse and build something new in the wreckage. We can’t go backward. And whatever modernity is, it isn’t static, it is still happening, and its endpoint is unknown.

        On the principle of modernity you have here noticed – that it is possible to choose our belief systems – we *can* unchoose modernity. To reckon the faults of a notion and modify it *just is* to unchoose it and search for something better. Obviously we can’t unwind history. But we can learn from it, and reckon that we did things better once upon a time, and so try to replicate that success in the present circumstances.

      • You see the autophagic problem with your position, no?

        I am not sure how to get this through your head, but the reflexive quality of my position is a positive. An ideology that can’t eat itself can’t eat the universe. The universe is itself autophagic; one reason of many that absolute certainty is not an option. No Truth, just truth.

        So anachronistic. The early Christians took quite a conscious and costly decision about their beliefs. Choosing beliefs is not only a modern thing. It is a human thing.

        You know, I will have to grant you this one, I was being simplistic to imply that only moderns gave thought to their beliefs, and that reflexivity is wholly a modern invention. Christians in particular have an interesting attitude to belief, I’ve recently come to realize – “faith” is not exactly belief, more like a will to believe (no doubt that itself is drastically oversimplified, but I’m trying to agree with you, there’s a lot of reflection going on).

        What I was trying to say was something like this: modernity and postmodernity are not just packages of beliefs that we can accept or reject, they are a characterization of the actual state of the culture’s view of itself. We can’t escape them, because we are formed by this culture. They are the particular forms of reflexivity available to us, as creatures of our time. And the defining hallmark of postmodern reflexivity is the knowledge that all foundational systems are self-undermining, leaving us without a solid place to stand.

        Now, there are different ways to react to this deeply felt cultural truth. You can reject it, like you and your ilk, and hold fast to one of those old-fashioned belief systems that thrived before modernity came around and stomped them into the dirt. Maybe they can be rescued and revived. It’s not inherently impossible, but that strategy holds zero appeal for me. I also suspect that at some level it is impossible. We can’t escape what constitutes us.

        Or you can embrace foundationlessness as our actual condition of being, and learn to live with it.

        I don’t think I can argue you, or anyone, into the second strategy. As I said earlier, it’s a lot of work and the rewards seem minimal, compared to the promises of an eternal afterlife. I’ll leave you to your certainties.

        If modernity doesn’t work, it *must* be wrong somehow.

        That assumes that earlier systems “worked”, whatever that means. No human culture has lasted forever, and none ever will.

        You have the wrong framing. Modernity has issues, which everybody recognizes. It works fucking great in the sense that you and I are living lives of unimaginable comfort and luxury and freedom; it doesn’t work in the sense that it is environmentally unsustainable, and in the sense that it seems to make a lot of people unhappy and thus may be politically unstable.

        But earlier systems didn’t work that great either, which is why they are no longer around. Some traditions can be very long-lived indeed. The Aboriginal people of Australia appear to have had a culture that sustained them for 75000 years. So it worked, but it won’t work forever and its longevity is not of much use to us in figuring out how to make our culture work.

        I do crave certainty. Of course. So do you. To do otherwise would be perverse, idiotic, and inhuman

        From a Buddhist perspective such cravings are one of the fundamental roots of suffering. So yes we both have them, but I try not to indulge mine.

        If we can’t be certain of anything, why then we can’t act, at all

        What a strange thing to say. It’s obviously false, people act under uncertainty all the time, it’s a basic condition of existence.

        On your account, everything ends in death, so why not just go ahead and die?

        This is nihilist logic and I’m not a nihilist. My position is that the finite life we have is enough, and that we should accept its finitude and give our full attention to it. We do not need eternal life to justify our actual finite life. Sounds radical to you I guess, but I assure you, it’s nothing but plain common sense.

        The Christian proposition is not that we may by ourselves obtain certainty – that is the Pelagian heresy – but rather that certainty is out there to begin with, a certain, sure fact about reality, so that by the grace of God we have some hope of approximation thereto

        Now I think you are claiming for Christianity what is common to just about every human mind – a desire to model reality accurately, and a belief that reality is a certain way. Sorry I don’t think Jesus has the patent on that one. Everyone from the first semi-conscious hominids to the most addled of postmoderns has to do that, at some level.

        It is not modeling reality itself that has been rejected, just the theological grounding of it (eg there is some great mind that comprehends reality and our small minds cognize by somehow approximating this giant mind).

        we *can* unchoose modernity.

        Maybe! I think you’ll find it difficult. But as I think you would agree, it’s not a project for individuals; you aren’t so much about personally rejecting modernity as trying to get the culture at large to reject it, so the world can go back to something more traditional. So you need to get the collective “we” to reject it. Good luck with that.

    • Thanks, Scoot. But I must say that, reading over my excursus supra, I don’t gather the impression of a splash of cool clear truth. It reads to me rather as a splash of hellfire: of hard hot adamantine opaque and impenetrable truth. I so would it were not so. I would so rather be generous and forgiving to the Romantic Christians, so that I could say, unreservedly, “Sure, to be sure, granted, welcome in to our fellowship.” But I find that to be impossible, by definition. They reject ecclesiality; so, they reject any true or real fellowship we might establish, over and above mere courtesy and pragmatic political alliance. For, ecclesiality *just is* fellowship. I want, hard, to be in a church with Bruce and the other Romantic Christians. But they repudiate Church per se, unless she be perfect; which is to say, only that they reject Church per se, period full stop. For, she cannot be perfect, until the eschaton.

      As rejecting the Body of Christ, the Romantic Christians reject Christ as actual, and wager their own everlasting fate upon the paltry deliverances of their own purblind intellects.

      While I admire their honesty, I feel deeply sad at this. Still, it is what it is.

      • Truth is like stretching—it feels good if you’re healthy but if you’ve got a dislocated shoulder to begin with it will hurt a lot. A lot of people stop when it hurts but if you push through —the right way —youll find everything fits into place again.

        Lets pray that our friends and family and the whole world joins us on the right bank of the Tiber!

      • I don’t know…maybe I don’t really ‘count’ as a “Romantic Christian”, because I don’t actually “reject ecclesiality” or “Church per se” – I just don’t have access to ones that feel spiritually ‘compatible’ to me…
        …Because, the fact is, the average person sitting in any church where I live has no interest in the kind of “fellowship” (i.e. discussion) that I find spiritually nourishing.

        Just for example, this is one of my favorite blogs: https://www.thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com/post/vernacular-sacraments

        This Youtube channel (“Grail Country”) is amazing:
        https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsi_x8c12NW9FR7LL01QXKA/playlists
        They do discussion group podcasts on the works of authors such as Valentin Tomberg, Sergei Bulgakov, Emil Bock…

        One more:
        https://secretfire.substack.com/p/secret-fire
        (The author is a ‘Romantic Catholic Christian’ and probably the most pure-hearted person I’ve ever come across)

        I think the point I’m trying to make is that just because some particular “Romantic Christians” are quite prolific in blogging and over time have become increasingly ‘dogmatic’ as to defining their beliefs –
        – that isn’t necessarily a reflection on the majority of ‘Romantically Christian Believers’…
        I think most of us would love to have a Church to call ‘home’ – but how can we feel ‘at home’ among people we can’t really ‘relate’ to?

      • Carol, I bet there is a high traditional Catholic or Orthodox church somewhere not too horribly far from you. If so, you can be pretty confident that there will be quite a few people in its congregation who are interested in the same sorts of discussions you value.

        But, even if not, the point of Church is not the fellowship it generates; is not the coffee hour or the Bible Study group. Fellowship is a byproduct of the main event: worship. If you are partaking a traditional liturgy, you are being inundated with spiritual teaching, even if all the other participants are asleep at the wheel. I recommend it.

        Oh, and thanks for those links. I’ll check them out. I like that sort of stuff, too!

      • Carol, with Kristor, thank you for providing those links. Your comment also had me thinking that not all of Romanticism is unsalvageable.

        For what it’s worth, I think that Romanticism still has value despite its errors to the extent it can help critique some of the excesses of modernity. I will say that I respect Romantics like Dr. Charlton for their impressive output in writing on this subject. It may be though that a Romanticism that bolsters Christianity will be one that lacks some of the uniquely Charltonian elements like Mormonism and its attendant hostility to premodern philosophy. I also don’t think it has been mentioned in these discussions but many of the continental Romantics ended up leaving Romanticism for Catholicism (Müller being perhaps the most famous example). I don’t say this to really prove anything beyond that some famous Romantics saw Catholicism as an attractive option.

  6. When Charlton veered into Mormonism years ago, there were people here who warned.

    I’ll concede he has said many interesting and insightful things about society, but whenever he gets into any specifics of Christianity, he becomes a bl***y mess, unreliable and untrustworthy (he’s just winging it). This has been visible for a long time.

  7. Pingback: The Advent of Christian Mysticism | Σ Frame

  8. Thanks for this Kristor, though it sounds as though it was no joy for you to post.

    There really is a question, identified by imnobody I think both here and elsewhere, that needs addressing before meeting with Charlton’s circle. Charlton brings it up often in attempts at dialogue, and it has come up particularly in Roebuck’s recent attempts to engage with Charlton. It’s the “metaphysical” question, and Charlton gives it as a reason why he can’t even start with Roebuck in considering the latter’s arguments. It’s the prior framework by which he approaches such (what I think of as) sound evidence as the litany of great men and women you (Kristor) have summoned here as testifying against the larger premises of the Romantics. It’s a framework by which he has ruled out before the discussion begins, that such a litany should be considered any kind of evidence at all. It’s a framework that causes Francis Berger to double down (or so it would appear to such a one as I who obviously holds a different “metaphysics”) without conceding a shred of anything that might resemble a consideration that you have a good point on anything that speaks against his position. It appears to be a framework that allows for incredulity on the part of Berger, Charlton, etc. that they should be held to this or that position at all, and have to answer for it.

    I can identify the problem, but it’s not as though I have any solutions to it. Maybe I’m being a bit histrionic in suggesting they are flirting with Chesterton’s “…thought that stops thought…the only thought that ought to be stopped.”

    • Thanks, Buckyinky. It was indeed no fun to write that post, and I fair trembled as I published it, for it was the first time I had really taken in the enormous sweep of the Romantic Christian rejection of the entire Christian patrimony.

      I’ve taken up with Bruce several times the matter of the deep incoherence in his metaphysics – which are somewhat like the Process metaphysics that so attracted me as a young man, in which time is taken to be metaphysically basic and so without beginning, so that God is not metaphysically basic, but rather a being among other beings; thus, not simple, not omniscient, not omnipotent, and so on. In those discussions I have batted down arguments that there is incoherence in classical metaphysics; mostly by explaining how those arguments have begun from a fundamental misunderstanding of classical metaphysics (an exercise to which Ed Feser is often forced to resort in his controversies with modern analytic philosophers).

      In those conversations, I find that Bruce is often reduced to repeating statements I have already dealt with, decisively. He often ends by the assertion that in order to understand his metaphysics I’d have to do a lot of work. But that dog won’t hunt, because I did that work as a young man, when – being myself at that time a modernist – it seemed to me that classical metaphysics made no sense. So, I thoroughly understand his metaphysics.

      I then did the even harder work of trying to really understand classical metaphysics, and found it coherent, and cogent. I discovered in the process that the great insights of Process metaphysics in its analysis of becoming fit neatly into classical metaphysics. In short, time is basic to worlds, but not to their matrix and forecondition. So neat! But, while I have made these points to Bruce, they seem to cut no ice with him.

      Be that all as it may, my respect for Bruce is enormous. He is to my mind one of the most prescient thinkers on the planet about our present historical predicament. And I regard him as an ally, and a friend indeed.

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