Satan is the prince of this world.
It is said that God can bring good out of evil, but that’s not quite true. Evil in itself cannot be the cause of good, even by divine arrangement. God can use the occasion of misfortune to work some good in the universe, but it is the good He adds to the occasion that is the true cause of subsequent goods, not evil itself. If we are loyal to God, we can expect misfortune. God’s providential care of us means that He will give us the opportunity to learn needed lessons and inculcate needed virtues through the occasion of these misfortunes. However, we will only benefit from these opportunities if we consciously choose to recognize them and see circumstances in this light. Suffering, deprivation, and fear in themselves will not make us more virtuous. In fact, we can expect that the Enemy who deals these out will calculate his afflictions to be those most likely to inspire discouragement and resentment. No improvement will come to us without our consciously recognizing the goods God is offering and deliberately participating in their actualization. Still, I have find a real comfort knowing that God is also calculating, that He will provide opportunities for our spiritual benefit in everything the Enemy will do to us.
Of course, we must have true and not false hope. We shouldn’t expect that these spiritual benefits will ever translate into future temporal success, e.g. that the suffering of the Church Militant will cause her to get her act together and inspire a future religious revival. In the order of this world, God’s side will never know anything but humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat. The Satanic Left is invincibly triumphant, and nothing will stop the totalitarian hell it is constructing. Whether we are exposed and ostracized or manage to squeak out our lives in hiding, we will suffer a nightmarish isolation from our fellow men, and this will be relieved only by death. But we as individuals may gain in endurance and resignation to our own sufferings and in tender love for Christ’s helpless Bride.
I used to share the popular belief that there could be a Christianity that de-emphasizes the next life, that a Christianity ordered primarily toward spiritual goods in this life might actually be “purer”. I no longer think that, and it is clear that serious Christians of all past ages put their hope not in moral improvement, not in social justice on Earth, but in being with God in Heaven. I’ve come to suspect that these Christians who want us to put our hopes in this world are thinking to cut a deal with its Prince.
On the other hand, I’m unable to be comforted by the thought that what happens to my soul is the only thing that matters, and that the Enemy can’t control that. The Enemy also has designs on my daughters, and enormous resources with which to ensnare them. This terrifies me, and I know it’s bad theology, but I can’t imagine being happy in Heaven with them in the other place. I can, however, imagine that if I were to wake up in Heaven and find my family and my good friends–and while I’m fantasizing why not include my Orthosphere comrades here–there with me, welcomed into eternal communion with our Lord, Jesus Christ, then the thought of the world going to hell wouldn’t bother me overmuch.
I have long struggled with an inability to believe in the afterlife, but I find that most of my prayers now are for my salvation and the salvation of those close to me. My hopes are more and more focused on a Heaven in which I can hardly believe, because there is nothing else to hope in.
The last years have been a brutal education in the futility of hope in this world. The Christians of all past ages thought that the appropriate attitude toward this world is scorn, and they were right.
“The Enemy also has designs on my daughters, and enormous resources with which to ensnare them.”
But we must not forget the great doctrine of Effectual Calling and Efficacious Grace, against which the Prince of this World is powerless.
In his Letter to Simplician, St Augustine, the Doctor of Grace, insists that “the effectiveness of God’s mercy cannot be in the power of man to frustrate, if he will have none of it. If God wills to have mercy on men, he can call them in a way that is suited to them, so that they will be moved to understand and to follow. It is true, therefore, that many are called but few chosen. Those are chosen who are effectually [congruenter] called. Those who are not effectually called and do not obey their calling are not chosen, for although they were called they did not follow. Again it is true that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.” [Rom 9:16] For, although he calls many, he has mercy on those whom he calls in a way suited to them so that they may follow. But it is false to say that “it is not of God who hath mercy but of man who willeth and runneth,” because God has mercy on no man in vain. He calls the man on whom he has mercy in the way he knows will suit him, so that he will not refuse the call.”
And he asks, “Who would dare to affirm that God has no method of calling whereby even Esau might have applied his mind and yoked his will to the faith in which Jacob was justified? But if the obstinacy of the will can be such that the mind’s aversion from all modes of calling becomes hardened, the question is whether that very hardening does not come from some divine penalty, as if God abandons a man by not calling him in the way in which he might be moved to faith. Who would dare to affirm that the Omnipotent lacked a method of persuading even Esau to believe?” (2: 13-14)
Thank you so much for sharing that quote! As a believer with many ‘non believing’ loved ones, I have spent much time in petitioning God’s mercy on their behalf – it’s very comforting to read St. Augustine’s views on the matter!
Here is another extract from his De Correptione et Gratia (cap 17 [VIII.])
“Or if you say that it pertains to man’s free will—which you defend, not in accordance with God’s grace, but in opposition to it—that any one should persevere in good, or should not persevere, and it is not by the gift of God if he persevere, but by the performance of human will, why will you strive against the words of Him who says, “I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith fail not”? [Luke 22:32] Will you dare to say that even when Christ prayed that Peter’s faith might not fail, it would still have failed if Peter had willed it to fail; that is, if he had been unwilling that it should continue even to the end? As if Peter could in any measure will otherwise than Christ had asked for him that he might will. For who does not know that Peter’s faith would then have perished if that will by which he was faithful should fail, and that it would have continued if that same will should abide? But because “the will is prepared by the Lord,” [Proverbs 8:35 – Septuagint] therefore Christ’s petition on his behalf could not be a vain petition. When, then, He prayed that Peter’s faith should not fail, what was it that He asked for, but that in his faith Peter should have a most free, strong, invincible, persevering will! Behold to what an extent the freedom of the will is defended in accordance with the grace of God, not in opposition to it; because the human will does not attain grace by freedom, but rather attains freedom by grace, and a delightful constancy, and an insuperable fortitude that it may persevere. [Voluntas quippe humana non libertate consequitur gratiam, sed gratia potius libertatem, et ut perseueret delectabilem perpetuitatem, et insuperabilem fortitudinem.]”
When a person is hardened in his heart beyond all repair such that even God cannot persuade him.
Then its best to pray for his/her early death. To lessen their final punishments in hell.
St Augustine also says, “Moreover, in the same mass of ruin the Jews were left, because they could not believe such great and eminent mighty works as were done in their sight. For the gospel has not been silent about the reason why they could not believe, since it says: “But though He had done such great miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him; that the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled which he spake, [Isa. liii. 1] Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? And, therefore, they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, [Isa. vi. 10] He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” [John xii. 37 ff.]”
But the Doctor of Grace adds, “Neither would inability to believe have been a hindrance to them, if they had been so predestinated as that God should illuminate those blind eyes, and should will to take away the stony heart from those hardened ones.” [nec istis obfuisset quod non poterant credere, si ita praedestinati essent, ut eos caecos Deus illuminaret, et induratis cor lapideum vellet auferre]. (Praescientia et praeparatio beneficiorum Dei 14: 35)
Thus, Scripture says, : I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please Me (Exod. 33:19)
“. The Christians of all past ages thought that the appropriate attitude toward this world is scorn, and they were right”
It was easier for these Christians to think like that: her life was difficult and full of suffering. This helped them to try to get close to God.
Satan gave us a level of wealth and pleasure unheard of in human history. He got what he wanted: people rejected God and rushed to get money and earthly pleasures. They put their hope in this world. It is not that they were worse than their ancestors: it’s that they had the opportunity.
Now the process is almost complete. Satan is going to remove all earthly pleasures, but people won’t turn to God, because they don’t believe in Him anymore. Their suffering will be hopeless and desperate.
There is a scene in Disney’s Pinocchio movie that is the perfect summary of the last 200 years and what I have explained. The scene about the Island of Games. Two minutes that say it all.
To Bonald – thank you for this post, it conveys much that aligns with my own experience and thoughts…
I have a daughter too – she’s 24, my only child – so I can absolutely relate to what you’ve written in regards to yours.
The thing is, even were I certain of her salvation and our mutual ‘hope in Heaven’, the fact of the increasing ‘hopelessness’ of the world would still greatly trouble me.
How could I feel comforted by ‘hope in Heaven’, knowing that our children’s future may be relegated to living thru ‘Hell on Earth’?
I find myself praying every day that God will ‘hasten’ the ‘End Times’, and that the true King of mankind will return. Maranatha.
What did Christians think when they were building the Cathedral at Chartres, or in the nave at Hagia Sophia, listening to a sermon by a living saint? Or even 1946 America, when Protestant Christianity was as woven into the culture as baseball?
Were they all bitching and moaning about how Christendom was too easy and they all just needed to kill themselves for having insufficient scorn for this world?
Taken to its logical conclusion, your advice to your children would be that they should hurry up and follow the Shakers into extinction. Indeed, your advice to your younger self would be not to have children.
Christianity has become a Gnostic faith with nothing to offer people but the extra burden of religious practice.
“Were they all bitching and moaning about how Christendom was too easy”
It is worth noting that the Peace of the Church under Constantine provoked the flight of the Desert Fathers to the wilderness.
Similarly, the age of the great cathedral builders was an age of increased asceticism: the eremitical orders like the Carthusians and the Camaldoli, the laborious rigour of the Cistercians, the commitment to absolute poverty of the Franciscans.
Again, in France, the triumph of the Church in the Wars of Religion gave rise to the French School of Spirituality, best expressed in the words of Olier: “It is necessary for the soul to be in fear and distrust of self; … It should make its pleasure and joy depend on sacrificing to Jesus all joy and pleasure which it may have apart from Himself. And when taking part in those things in which by Providence it is obliged to be occupied, such as eating, drinking, and conversation with creatures, it must be sparing in all, must discard what is superfluous, and must renounce, in the use of them, the joy and pleasure to be found therein, uniting and giving itself to Jesus as often as it feels itself tempted to enjoy something apart from Him and not Himself.”
It was the bourgeois Christianity of late 19th century France that provoked Léon Bloy to write: “The damned in the abyss of their torments have no other refreshment than the spectacle of the devils’ hideous faces. The friends of Jesus see all around them the modern Christians, and thus it is that they are able to picture hell.”
I assume you led by example this Thanksgiving and told family members a light repast of rice and green beans would be sufficient and to please observe the Benedictine rule of silence at the dinner table.
Amma Syncletica of Alexandria (270-350) a lady hermit says: “There is an asceticism which is determined by the enemy and his disciples practise it. So how are we to distinguish between the divine and royal asceticism and the demonic tyranny? Clearly through its quality of balance.”
She also says, “In the beginning there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: at first it is smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort.”
One notes that Amma Syncletica was born during the Ninth Persecution under Aurelian, following the period of toleration under Gellianus (253–268). She lived through the Tenth Persecution under Diocletian and Maximinian, during which churches were demolished, Christian books were seized and burnt, Christians were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed. She was 42 or 43 when Constantine promulgated the Edict of Milan in February 313. She lived to see the Council of Nicea in 325, convened by the Emperor, in which 318 Fathers of East and West proclaimed, with one voice, the same heavenly utterances of the Gospel.”
The cause. No, I’ve thought about that a bit and I think I agree…not the cause, but the source. Evil lives in every corner of our world. The fragment of God that lives in us draws the good from the evil. Makes me think of God pulling a rabbit out of His hat. But no magic involved. Just the divine power of a living God. Thanks for your post.
Forty years ago in the Federal City I attended a speech on Eric Voegelin by Gerhart Niemeyer, over whom I towered in height, though in aught else. Afterwards, he granted me some private moments: “Professor Niemeyer, is there no historical hope?” “Are you ze Christian?” “Yes.” Then, with his right forefinger planted firmly against my heart, he asserted, “Den you know dahr iz no historical hope!” And he was off. The influence of angels is nearer our ears than our cellphones. “The wind bloweth where it listeth…,” so that the Spirit is nearer us than our own consciousness. The Almighty is God of the living, not the dead, and the Son has vanquished death. Rene Girard understood this. There is no doubt as we know this when our intellect (the higher part of the mind, the lower having to do with mere reason) is illumined as the mind (the nous, as the Greeks best understand) is returned to the heart. We must live in a consciousness saturated of the supernatural.