Mark 9:24

Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

Horror at the mob of Christians

In On Atheism on March 31, 2012 at 1:23 am

New Atheists invoke the curious case of Hypatia in their mythology of the Christian mob, seeking to undermine the Christian claim of imitating Christ. Though New Atheists abandon good sense along the way, they certainly have the right sense. While Christianity rarely resembles a mob as much as the New Atheism, Christian mobs are always worse.

As Jeremiah laments the destruction of Jerusalem, all Christians must lament the watering down of Christianity. Only the repentant return from Babylon, and rarely if ever have all returned.

Let us remember: In the atheist age of Dawkins, there is no common ground among men opposed to God but a single cri de coeur — or is it cri du jour? — for it is a fist in flickering torchlight, raised alone against the Manor and, often, manners. As a whole, New Atheism is led not so much by figureheads but by acclamation, by which their Adams ascend and fall. They are not a community but for one purpose. If some elements dispute this characterization as odious dictionary atheism, it stands that some dispute it and some defend it. The New Atheism is self-devouring in many senses.

If I particularize the New Atheists, do not confuse this with condemning them more than anyone else. Such as it is in the eternal human story, found among pagans of every stripe. Larger devours smaller, shouts drown out saner voices. With no cause but one, such men band together only as barbarians against the eternal city — long enough to divide the spoils, but not so long as to linger together when back home. But Christians — Christians are not made for division.  Read the rest of this entry »

Admire men, those men unmired

In Armchair Apologetics on March 29, 2012 at 1:04 am

St. Thomas More’s career does not reveal a nice man, or so YouTube Atheists have revealed many times. Were this true, I could not be more surprised if they said St. Augustine had been licentious. (Arguments focusing on the bad behavior of Christians typically miss the point on several levels.)

I don't think this hangs in the papal apartment.

Putting aside ad hominem, for that is thankfully not quite universal among the anti-Christian and sadly not exclusive to them, I find two major objections:

  1. Bad behavior is not forgotten evidence, but the first evidence, datum numero uno, Exhibit A.
  2. Behavior at-large ignores the question of admiration, i.e.: Which Christians admire which Christians and why?

Our first objection is somewhat rote, however solidly true, so let’s focus on the second: Just as admiration for St. Thomas More is not from More’s jerkishness but his martyrdom and the events which led to it, St. Thomas Aquinas is not admired for his grand size but for his grander synthesis, and G.K. Chesterton is not admired for his pre-Hitler opinions on the Jews but for the joy and common sense which infused everything else he wrote, including his post-Hitler opinions on the Jews.

To wit, which Christians admire the Westboro Baptists? I suppose Westboro Baptists do, but who else? Can we really say that they, if admired by any other Christians, are admired from Christian principles?  Read the rest of this entry »

In ordinate complexity

In Armchair Apologetics on February 4, 2012 at 10:01 am

We have before us a task of tedious simplicity, but its enormity it may crush us: Ten million square pegs meet ten million round pegs, mixed in a heap and scattered across the floor. There are also two slots of appropriate shape. If we keep the pace of one-and-a-half seconds to find and place each in the right spot we will spend the better part of a year in this monotony. We will spend another two weeks eating, four weeks sleeping, twelve weeks working.

All is ordered by measure, number and weight. Finding their right relation is the tricky part.

(If we take Sunday off, we add another seven-and-a-half weeks to our ambitious schedule.)

Scripture is vastly more complex. Rather than two shapes, there are at least a distinct hundred, and more subtly there are perhaps a thousand more. Left as a pile of stuff, we have no pre-ordained slots. We must figure out where what goes, how, why. Given these wrinkles, we cannot keep such brisk pace, even if we were tireless creatures of self-discipline trained to live in single-minded pursuit of scripture.

It does not take long to wonder: We are limited principally not by the millions of items and unknown several categories but also by our three score and ten. If in 30 generations someone eventually finds the truth, what of the earlier 29 generations? Will they suffer not knowing God, though this is His clear and constant will?

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Chesterton and Lewis show a crossroad

In Pursue Truth on January 31, 2012 at 4:19 am

In reading more and more of Chesterton, and having finished my first time through the bare-bones central corpus of Lewis some time ago, I sometimes come to places where I see apparently inherent contradictions between them. Shallow skeptics of YouTube comment threads would delight in this if they noticed. Alas, it’s left for us to contemplate two truths and their contradiction.

It is not the goal of Christianity to stand for a moment. Rather, our goal to stand forever.

For example, Chesterton wrote:

There are an infinity of angles at which one falls; only one at which one stands.

… while Lewis wrote:

How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.

These men aren’t at all opposed, of course, but if we approach the two men as the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible approaches Holy Writ we will gleefully gape at their nakedness though in fact they are perfectly clothed. After all, our former quote is central to Chesterton’s best, most popular apologetic, titled Orthodoxy, just as our latter quote is central to Lewis’ best, most popular apologetic. In fact, Mere Christianity is probably the most popular apologetic among any works we’d recognize as strictly apologetic. How do we reconcile these giants?

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Do nothing thoughtlessly

In Lay Meditations on August 16, 2011 at 11:07 am

For freethinkers, atheists seem awfully fond of catchphrases. In response you may fairly say that atheists are not necessarily freethinkers, but in so saying you affirm what I have already said. In any case, despite insisting that they have no dogma they do share a great number of high-fivin’ bon mots stripped of context. In most of these we can see a strong pattern, even aside from the mobbish iconoclasm that seems to think breaking the symbols of a thing breaks the thing.

Your ability to whip up righteous indignation does not mean you are right. It means you know how to press buttons.

One of the favorites comes from John Stuart Mill:

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.

Is it possible to say such a thing without smirking? I congratulate anyone who avoids that gaping trap without conscious effort, for on the face of things it seems this taken in and of itself can only be said by a man who believes human beings are pigs and he is something more even than that.

This takes a peculiar turn if said by a former Christian. He means to say he was formerly a pig. This would mean that he became not-pig from pig, this despite there being no natural progression between the two. He might as well believe that a thing may come from nothing, and he does.

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Truth even in desecration

In On Atheism on July 27, 2011 at 7:22 am

Looking again at PZ Myers’ desecration of the Eucharist, we here more, albeit smaller, nuggets of truth:

By the way, I didn’t want to single out just the cracker, so I nailed it to a few ripped-out pages from the Qur’an and The God Delusion. They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet.

Without faith --- trust --- in even one particular other, we marvel only at our distorted self-image.

Regarding the comments about a cracker, we should respond as Peter Kreeft:

Our enemies are not anti-Catholic bigots who want to crucify us. They are the ones we’re trying to save. They are our patients, not our disease. Our word for them is Christ’s: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We say this of the Chinese communist totalitarians who imprison and persecute Catholics, and to the Sudanese Muslim terrorists who enslave and murder Catholics. They are not our enemies, they are our patients. We are Christ’s nurses. The patients think the nurses are their enemies, but the nurses know better.

Kreeft is at times too snarky and polemical for my taste, but in this he hit the nail on the head. Again, there is at least a little truth everywhere.

Myers, for his part, is right to say that The God Delusion certainly must not be held sacred, and not for the reasons an atheist might think I mean.

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Countering heresy

In Lay Meditations on July 24, 2011 at 1:45 am

We cannot explain why orthodoxy wins over heresy by appealing to the iron heel. If the Church ever crushed opposition, proponents of this view citing the relatively bloodless Inquisition and more sophisticated critics citing the crusade against the essentially anarchist Cathars, it is not the pattern. For example, over the Arians, who had full state support, orthodoxy prevailed through the martyrdom of the again-oppressed Christians. Against the lies of the Eastern bloc governments, Christianity flourished in defiance.

Only in the sense of the eventual victor is orthodoxy a history of the winners.

I do not say that Christian truth is and always has been oppressed — as ignored as it may be from time to time — nor do I attempt to justify the Inquisition, but rather I say that reality is not nearly so simple than the “iron heel” hypothesis.

To go farther we must define our terms: Orthodoxy translates as “right belief,” and so the opposed, heresy, is “wrong belief.” More specifically, heresy is “undue emphasis of a certain portion or aspect of doctrine at the expense of another.” Heresy is, essentially, deception. As with all lies — and all evil things — it begins with a truth and twists or inflames that truth beyond its proper portion. It is obsession, very soon paired with denial of ecclesial authority, and, I believe, motivated more by a desire for originality or worldly fame than for truth. On the simple level of falsehood, heresy is already grave matter.

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Idols of horsemen

In On Atheism on July 19, 2011 at 5:40 am

Among atheists most follow the pattern Kreeft notes: “If we do not worship God, we will worship idols, for we are by nature worshipers.” I’ve seen intellect, sensation and an abstract subjective happiness. Some, perhaps like men who very shallowly read Asimov, instead have faith in identifying the vague progress of science as a science of universal progress. They transpose the proper utility of science in the material and use it as a weapon, aiming at the immaterial. They ignore the simple fact that we recognize metaphysics because Aristotle knew physics answers only hows and is useless toward whys.

What is founded on the world does not reach very high beyond it, and will shudder with the earth.

Read Asimov a little deeper, though, and we see he realizes that science cannot correct what is wrong with men. It does not take much knowledge of the deterioration of the Spacers, or of the Empire, or even of the Foundation to disassociate Asimov from utopianism. However clever Hari Seldon, his psychohistory fails. As Lewis notes in his explanation of original sin:

That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended — civilizations are built up — excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin.

We also see some elite condescension in atheist circles which, although it has a parallel in certain prelates who disdained drumming in St. Peter’s when the African bishops were scheduled for Rome, has no parallel in the man who said, “the more African, the better.” Some atheists, observably not despairing of anything but Christians, have a kind of pride we find in every heresy — even the Gnostics thought they were bearers of a secret immortal truth available to an elite few, and they believed that the deluded Christians should be dissuaded with absurdities. We see it in the state endorsement of Arianism, in the mockeries of the Manichees and throughout materialist scientism.

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Good without God?

In Armchair Apologetics on July 16, 2011 at 7:29 am

Men who say, “It is possible to be a good person without being a Christian,” speak the truth, but the error is in the thrust of this spearpoint and not in its hardiness. By this point, the speaker means to continue with the implication, unspoken, that it is pointless to be a Christian, a deposit of unnecessary effort, because to try to be a good person is all that is needed to enter any final reward the Christian posits. Let us separate the wheat from chaff in this fuzzy thinking. In short, the statement is true as far as it goes; the problem is that it doesn’t go far enough. We must know, if we know anything, that only being a good person is not the goal of Christianity.

Sloth

Mere goodness is not the goal.

Goodness as it is meant is not “living sinlessly” but instead “living without sinning too much.” This is inadequate, if not in works then certainly in temperament. To be a great person — holy, God-fearing and devout — is the goal, the requirement to enter the Kingdom of God. If we are not, it will be “like passing through fire.” Furthermore, we will not enter Heaven by aiming for Purgatory. We will only enter even Purgatory — the shower room for the eternal pool party with God — by aiming for Heaven. By Christian doctrine, we know that this kind of greatness happens as a gift of grace, that which comes only by Christ, the one mediator between God and man.

If it is possible for anyone outside the Church to nonetheless receive the grace of God — which it surely is if God freely gives and men freely accept such a gift, and Christians are not in the habit of limiting God in His omnipotence — it is not the ordinary means of receiving grace. It is, in an illustrative word, extraordinary.

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