Friday, August 10, 2012

  1. Sikhism and Orthodox Christianity.
  2. The Human Miracle of Thought Transference.
  3. Reason and Legerdemain.
  4. Two kinds of Christians.


Fr. Andrew Steven Damick had a comparison of Sikhism and Orthodox Christianity in his book Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. It was timely to blog about it, so he did.


Wine is so strange and potent a thing that it has been used in the central ritual of religion in one place and time, and attacked by a virago with a hatchet in another. There is only one thing in the world that is capable fo stirring and altering men’s minds to the same extent, and that is the coherent expression of thought. That is man’s chief miracle, unique to man. There is no “explanation” whatever of the fact that I can make arbitrary sounds which will lead a total stranger to think my own thought. It is sheer magic that I should be able to to hold a one-sided conversation by means of black marks on paper with an unknown persoon half-way across the world. Talking, broadcasting, writing and printing are all quite literally forms of thought transference, and it is the ability and eagerness to transfer and receive the contents of the mind that is almost alone responsible for human civilization.

Beatrice Warde, addressing the British Typographers Guild, 1932, quoted in Volume 1, Number 1 of Synaxis.


In a friendly exchange of which I’ve already written, a friend (who I believe supports same-sex marriage) defended me against imputations of bigotry (for opposing it) by saying I was a thoughtful guy motivated by religion. I demurred and still demur from the suggestion that my opposition was religious, even though it was suggested in my defense.

Leroy Huizenga at the First Things blog weighed in Thursday in a similar vein:

Many times Christians present our arguments for the traditional family by making arguments from Scripture and speaking of “God’s design for marriage.” …

It’s no wonder, then, that the broader population thinks opposition to gay marriage is a matter of religion alone. And as such, it can be marginalized. Indeed, it must be marginalized, for our culture assumes a fundamental split between faith and reason ….

[T]he irony of the gay marriage debate is that traditionalists are making arguments based on reason and nature, while secular culture is now largely irrational in spite of its trumpeting of reason, as the severing of faith and reason has led to a nihilism wherein the greatest good is the fulfillment of whatever desires among consenting adults. Is that all reason can really say, that anything one wants goes as long as no one else gets hurt?

[Cardinal George] claims that the State has a duty not to define marriage according to the passing fancies of the body politic at a given time but to protect marriage as a natural good preceding the State. The Church too has a double duty, as it is indebted not only to nature but also to revelation.

Because of the harmony of faith and reason, thoughtful Christians can speak of marriage in terms of both categories. And we sometimes confuse categories, and that proves confusing to the general public. But make no mistake: Our defense of marriage is no act of legerdemain, in which we try to force what we know solely by revelation on the public. (Observe no one is pushing laws forcing participation in the sacraments or forbidding participation in a particular faith.) Rather, we are concerned for the common good, a rational concern motivated by our very faith. Convinced that reason and nature teach us the truth about marriage, we will continue to make arguments in the public square about the public goods of marriage, for no society or person can long thrive kicking against the goads of reason and nature.

An internet cyber-acquaintance, Robin Phillips, recently has published two (of however many to come) essays on nominalism versus realism (here and here). Huizenga also mentions nominalism, following “our culture assumes a fundamental split between faith and reason”:

The roots of this split reach back to the medieval period in William of Occam’s nominalist and voluntarist theology, which conceived of God not as reason but as raw arbitrary will. Religion became regarded as irrational. And most modern Christians—whether Protestant or Catholic—accept that split, having absorbed it from the ambient culture.

(Italics added) I instinctively (I do not claim to have mastered the debate) fall on the realist side. I don’t believe I’ve ever engaged in an “act of legerdemain,” in which I tried to foist off on the public as reasonable what I knew solely by revelation of God’s supposedly “raw arbitrary will.”

However, I have a little trouble with today’s “reason” if the best it can come up with is “anything goes as long as nobody gets hurt.”


There are two types of Christians. There are those who can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20)”. And then there are those Christians who believe Christ was crucified so that we do not have to crucify ourselves.

(Abbot Tryphon)

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.