Over at Orthospherean Bruce Charlton’s Notions, I rattled off a comment about what a truly basic thing would have to be like, which upon reflection I believe may be worth promoting to a post here. Bruce had critiqued monotheism; I then pointed out that God in the OT had rather supported the idea, and said that monotheism is not monism; to which Bruce replied that Christian theology is certainly monist. I commented:
Orthospherean Bruce Charlton writes:
Non-Christian religions are often good at explaining the eternal perspective, and arguing in favour of an eternal perspective which shrinks (sometimes to microscopic levels) the importance of mortal life. But they tend to have trouble explaining why mortal life is of any value at all: why bother with it?
Mainstream Orthodox Christians also often have the same trouble – but this is not intrinsic to Christianity, but is a consequence of building in inappropriate Greco-Roman derived philosophy, and then seeing Christianity through its lens.
In one of his weaker arguments against theism, Bertrand Russell made the same point: to an infinite, eternal being, how could petty evanescent human affairs be even noticeable, let alone worthy of his attention? Wouldn’t he be rather too busy with the collisions of galaxies to worry himself over whether little George is grieving over the loss of his toy airplane?
Orthospherean Dale Nelson commented on my recent post about That Hideous Strength:
Interested readers can find my old commentary on That Hideous Strength [at Bruce Charlton’s Notion Club Papers, Bright Lights Under the Shadow of the Hideous Strength: The St. Anne’s Household — and Our Own Households.] Printed, it runs to about 60 pages including its appendices. It could use some revision but I think there is a lot of good material in it. It was originally prepared as a paper for a Christian retreat in rural Wisconsin. If anyone reads it and would like to discuss it, could The Orthosphere host that discussion?
That Hideous Strength is indeed an inspiring work, and my paper provides some leads for further reading.
The orthosphere – or as Bruce Charlton first proposed we call it, the kalbosphere – continues its penetration of the Christian Right. The lead article in the most recent edition of First Things is by Orthospherean Jim Kalb, his second appearance in that journal this year.
Technocracy Now is another of Jim’s incisive analyses of liberalism. An excerpt:
Secular reaction can’t work. As Bruce Charlton pointed out yesterday, secular cultures must tend always leftward – i.e., toward chaos and death – because at bottom they are guided and governed by disordered passions and desires, and so furthermore are careless of their danger. This will be as true of their noblest exponents and leaders as of their common folk. And we won’t be able to persuade a whole people that the first principles of their secular society are insane using only secular arguments. To sway them, we’ll have to put the fear of God into them. And we can’t give them what we don’t ourselves possess. Continue reading
Bruce Charlton worried a few days ago whether the languishing readership of the orthosphere, or Neoreaction generally, means that these schools of thought might be over and done with. Bonald has expressed similar concerns.
I think not. The tinder has not yet caught our spark. That does not mean it never will. Either we are all simply wrong about the way the world is, or else, sooner or later, one way or another, the fire will come. Why not keep striking the flint, in patient expectation?
I’ve been inactive lately here at the Orthosphere because my sparse mental energies have been focused elsewhere: Bruce Charlton and I have been talking amiably for the last few days about the Mormon versus the Christian doctrines of God, over at his valuable site The Notion Club Papers (which is devoted mostly to the Inklings). Those with a taste for metaphysical disputation might want to check it out. Bruce has said that he wants to keep that thread exclusive to the two of us, for clarity’s sake, and invited those interested to comment upon it in another post at his main site, Bruce Charlton’s Miscellany. I’ll say likewise: comments on this post are closed, so if you want to add your two cents, please do so over at the Miscellany.
Kristor, here’s a question: If sin is always enacted lying, what about people who love to do evil because it is evil? What about a torturer of the innocent, for example? He isn’t saying that torturing is “the appropriate thing to do under the circumstances.” He’s torturing because it _isn’t_ the appropriate thing to do, and because he loves the perversion. Some people love perversion for being perverse–love to read the universe backwards. I take this to be the essence of the demonic, if the demonic can be said to have an essence. Since we can imagine such a thing as a demonic will which truly adheres to evil for evil’s sake, it seems that this must be possible, and indeed (more’s the pity) we do know of monstrously evil human beings who have enacted the demonic will in our mundane world.
This is an especially important question, it has always seemed to me. I’d be a long step closer to being convinced that there is an a priori argument (or nearly a priori argument) for the existence of an omnibenevolent God if I didn’t have a rather vivid sense of the possibility of an extremely powerful (all-powerful?) but truly evil will.
Ugh. That’s a really tough question. I mean, it’s about fifteen tough questions. Thanks! I think …
I do have a response. But it’s too long for a comment. So, I’ll post it as a new entry.
This is that post.
I woke up Saturday morning thinking about sin. I know, I know: it sounds sick. But it wasn’t morbid, or anything. I wasn’t regretting my manifold wickednesses. No, I was enjoying the odd, synchronistic confluence in my intellectual life of inputs from several disparate sources, that each illumined the same issue of sin from slightly different perspectives, in such a way as to provide me as I woke with an increase in cerebral economy, otherwise known as an insight: the discovery of a connection between several ideas, that harmonized and integrated them.
In a post the other day at one of his several useful blogs, Bruce Charlton suggested that habitual lying, such as that in which the slaves of political correctness indulge themselves, deforms the circuitry of the brain in such a way as to cripple the ability to think. I have thought something of the sort for decades, ever since I read William Powers’ pellucid, masterful, amiable and penetrating Behavior: the Control of Perception. The basic idea I derived from Powers, as implicit in his explication of the logical structure of the nervous system under the terms of control system theory, is that in lying, superordinate circuits override the truthful output signals arising from subordinate circuits, either damping them, or masking them altogether. In effect, one control system of the brain disagrees with another, and insists that it get its own way. But, therein lies the rub; for, there is never any free lunch.
Bruce Charlton has noticed an essay by Mormon author Orson Scott Card, in which Card has a “Traditional Christian” and an LDS believer arguing over the nature of the Trinity. The Christian says the Trinity is like three parallel lines that everywhere touch each other, while the LDS says that it is like three disparate parallel lines.
Both these geometrical analogies are of course radically defective. That of the “Traditional Christian” fails to express threeness, while that of the LDS fails to express oneness. They illustrate the difficulty of trying to explain the being who is the very basis of explanation as such. If God is the origin of all that is, then he can’t be explained in terms of anything else. We should hardly be surprised that he can’t be accommodated by the abstractions of Euclidean geometry (especially since it is inadequate even as a formalization of our universe). If you’ve got an explanation of God, then what you’ve explained ain’t God. Nor would a God that you could fully understand be quite satisfactory to the religious impulse, for such a God would be in at least one way smaller than our own minds, and thus scandalous to worship.