On the Immaculate Conception

It seems clear as a matter of scriptural fact that Mary was immaculately conceived: Gabriel, who is in a position to know, said as much, in Luke 1:28. He could not have noticed or said that she was full of grace if there had been a jot of sin in her anywhere; for, being a defect of being, sin is an emptiness – a defect of fullness of grace. OK, so far so good.

But that I submit is not the real nub of the issue. It is, rather this: stipulated that Mary was indeed free of Original Sin from her very conception, why was that necessary? Why was it necessary that the Mother of God should be without spot or stain of sin? As Gabriel went on to say in Luke 1:37, all things are possible with God; so, why couldn’t God have raised up his Son from a sinful woman, or for that matter from some stone? Matthew 3:9.

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An Argument from Our Agency

Longtime commenter Ilíon Troas and I have been corresponding privily about topics tangential to my recent post on error and free agency. In a recent message to me, he shared the following startling argument, and courteously agreed to my suggestion that we should publish it here as a guest post. A more expansive version may be found at his blog, Iliocentrism; here, I reproduce only the core of his argument. It is this argument that prompted the train of thought in me that resulted in my even more recent post on causation.

We theists recognize two general categories of causation: mechanistic (i.e., “cause-and-effect”) and agency (“ground-and-consequent”). Most people, including most God-deniers, will initially agree that these two categories are real, and distinct, and unbridgeable … until they see where the argument is going.

From recognition of the unbridgeable distinction between mechanism and agency, I argue that agency cannot “arise” from mechanism – this is what the God-deniers who haven’t denied agency from the start will then deny and this denial can then be shown absurd and thus false – and thus that agency is, and must be, fundamental to [the] nature of reality.

But, as there is no such thing as agency unless there is an actually existing agent, it follows that *an actually existing agent* is fundamental to the nature of reality.

That is, *we* cannot be agents unless God (who is an agent) exists; or put another way: the fact that we *are* agents proves the reality of God and simultaneously proves the falseness of atheism, in all its forms.

On the other hand, atheism in all its forms denies, and must deny, true agency. For, as per the little argument above, to acknowledge the reality of agency is to acknowledge the reality of God.

Some *atheists* will try to posit random causation, or ‘randomness’ as a causation – and these people will frequently try to subsume agency under ‘randomness.’ But, this is absurd, and thus seen to be false. For, to speak of ‘randomness’ is to speak of a lack of correlation between two or more things. That is, to speak of a “random cause” is to literally speak of a “cause” which is not correlated with its alleged effect – literally, it is to speak of an effect which is not caused by a “cause,” and of a “cause” which does not cause an effect.

On Personal Discernment

I here now camp on to Alan’s most recent post on this topic.

Personal discernment is not of course for any partiscient creature – any creature, that is to say – ever optional. We are here below the orbit of the moon all at bottom, and obviously, left to our own devices, in figuring out what we should do. Such is the condition of Fallen man, alienate from the Truth of his Creator, so subject to Original Sin, ergo mistaken about moral reality, and thus misled – thus tempted, as temptable: as, i.e., concupiscent. This is not at all controversial. It is the perennial teaching of the Church, aye and of Israel. It is no more than what we all find to be the case, qua humans. Everyone whatever admits the truth of it, implicitly; for, in no other way might there be such a thing as a moral difficulty or question, such as we all always suffer, and that ever wrack our minds. So, to discourse upon it one way or another is feeble, beside the point, and so rather a waste of time. Nobody has any option but to do his best to discern the truth, and so the right way forward, according to his best lights. This is obvious. It is as obvious as arithmetic; nay, moreso.

Nuff said re that.

Nobody questions the inescapable requirement of all sentient creatures that they should exercise discernment. On that matter of discernment hangs the entire colloquy of freedom, sin, redemption, atonement, and salvation – which is to say, the entirety of soteriology, and of the practical Christian enterprise (also those of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam (and Taoism, that apotheosis of the protoevangelium)). So, never mind that. It is not the true question at issue.

The real question is whether in the process of discernment one should admit of correction or guidance from anything other than oneself. If the answer be no, it is ipso facto a repudiation of discernment per se; for, if our process of discernment allows for no influence from without us, why then it is a process, not of discernment properly so called, but rather only of adventitious self will. It is in that case, not discernment at all, but the opposite thereof: simple pride.

Which is to say, fantasy. Which is to say, solipsy.

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Personal Discernment

Bruce Charlton has a post observing the following about traditionalistic Catholics: On the one hand, they exercise “personal discernment” to decide which of the competing Roman Catholic authorities they will follow but on the other hand, they defer to said authority because that’s what Catholics are supposed to do rather than discern personally. Personal discernment seeming to be the opposite of deferal to authority, Bruce thinks he detects a contradiction and a weak point here.

I’m not Catholic, but this phenomenon is not a contradiction if understood correctly. It’s non-contradictory because there is a third element which Bruce failed (explicitly) to acknowledge: reality.  Charlton:

But at some point, in some respect; each individual – here-and-now – is compelled to make a choice that has no ultimate basis but his own personal judgment.

That “…no ultimate basis but his own personal judgment” sounds an awful lot like a purely subjective act.

But if the seat of authority (which I select as my authority by using personal discernment) really has authority, then I am not being contradictory. I am instead using my discernment to discern between rival claims about reality. Once I am satisfied that I understand reality well enough to select the true authority, I make that choice and then submit. Continue reading

Pray the Jesus Prayer, & Be Done With All the Rest

Hunting as I do daily over the links provided by our valuable and indefatigable allies at Synlogos, I am struck again, as I have of late been more and more often, with the bootlessness of it all.

Our struggle looks doomed. As usual.

What mundane prince might save us? None, at the last. For, we are all doomed to die. We are doomed to lose all that to which we have devoted our lives, including our progeny and their heirs, all of whom shall like us, and like the grass, wither away. That shall all happen, no matter the outcome of the midterm elections, or the war in Ukraine, or … of anything else whatever.

Mundane princes then are in the final analysis neither here nor there. While it behooves us as a matter of plain duty to attend to their motions, still in the end they amount to nothing. All that matters to us in our private persons is our ultimate reconciliation – each of us – with ultimate reality.

Pray then with me the Jesus Prayer, as often as you can remember to do so:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

Nothing could be more lethal to our worldly adversary, and to his designs.

On the Peculiar Difficulty of the Ascension

Herewith, a guest post from commenter PBW:

I

I had a lot of trouble with the Ascension. Every time I recite the Rosary, to take the most frequent example, I start with a declaration of belief: The Apostles’ Creed.

In saying the Creed, I assert a series of beliefs that are jarring to modern sensibilities, but not, for the most part, to me. I believe in God, and in his only begotten Son. I believe in his conception, by divine intervention, in the womb of the Virgin. I believe that, his body in the tomb, Christ descended into Hell. There is much here to ponder, but it is all comfortably within the assent of faith.

“[T]he third day he rose again from the dead …” This is the fulcrum of the Faith. Whilst the work of our redemption was done in the Passion, the sign of our redemption is the Resurrection. It is the incontrovertible revelation of the nature of Jesus Christ. “My Lord and my God.” I believe, unreservedly.

What is it then, in the midst of all these wonders, that makes for awkwardness about the Ascension? For one thing, it is the staginess of it. It is the levitating Jesus, who “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9.) It is the convenient cloud; it is the trapdoor into Heaven.

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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:

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On Finding the True Way to Life

Over at his Notions, our friend Bruce Charlton has commented upon the discussion here about the question, raised by our friend Francis Berger, whether the throne and altar have been superseded.

He writes:

I think the ultimate question is something like this:

Is The Christian Church (in some sense of The Church) in-charge-of human salvation – or is salvation primarily a matter for each individual.

The answer is yes.

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On the Reason & Purpose & Intent of the Orthosphere

It is obvious that we can’t go back. We must go forward. The project of the Orthosphere is to limn a cult, a culture, and a society that can work properly for humans after modernism – including the modernist “Church” – has crashed, by dint of exploration of the traditional societies that worked.

Creating a new Christianity that is not the old time religion can’t work. That has already been tried. We are now living in the midst of the results of that experiment. So, one thing we can be pretty sure of is that a properly flourishing Western civilization will have to be founded upon and ordered by – and, in the last analysis, governed by – traditional, orthodox Christianity. Thus one of the main subsidiary projects of the Orthosphere is the explanation of and apology for orthodox Christian doctrine. To the extent that moderns find Christianity incredible or repugnant, it is usually because they misunderstand Christianity. One of our jobs is to do what we can to dispel their confusion.

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