Sunday, 10/12/14

  1. “I never heard the Gospel there”
  2. The history should leave them speechless
  3. For the cure of mankind
  4. Progressive consistency
  5. Parochial Liberalism
  6. The birth of the pill
  7. Truth wrapped in falsehood


J. Budzisziewski writes of something similar to what I’ve thought about for 30 years or so now:

If baptism isn’t just a symbol of initiation but is an initiation, then Zach was already a Christian. God’s seal had been impressed indelibly on his soul. The inky divine thumbprint declared, “Mine.” He was adopted into God’s family, inducted into the knighthood of worship.

Not that anyone would have known. If he was a knight, he was an errant one, a wanderer in search of adventures, mostly the kind that can be had in women’s beds. Though he “thought of himself as a Christian,” he lived like any hedonist, taking his beliefs about living, dying, God, good, and evil from the nonbelieving world in which he lived.

One day when he visited a new church, the desert of his heart was strangely moistened. Looking back on the experience, he said that he had never “heard” the Gospel of grace until that day. Familiar story?

Yet there is something wrong with it. Every Sunday in his own church, Zach had sat through lections from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles, and the four evangelists. His eardrums were intact. His auditory nerves functioned. He even claims that he paid attention. So he “heard” in the mechanical sense; the problem was that he did not “hear” in the spiritual sense. He had not grown the right kind of ears, and that story, too, is familiar.

Yes, very familiar. I heard it from a Baptist, living around Atlanta, with a national “ministry.” He’d grown up in the Church I was attending then. But, he said, he’d “never heard the gospel there.”

Then I heard it of the Orthodox Church from a woman of Greek ancestry, speaking of her Evangelicalism through the claim that her grandmother “never heard the Gospel there,” either.

I think a lot of that comes not from not hearing the Gospel before, but from not hearing the cunning heresy in whose thralldom the speaker is now enmeshed:

There is a false Gospel for every taste and budget. A Gospel of wealth proclaims a Jesus who will give us any greedy thing we want if only we ask for it with enough confidence; a Gospel of cool sophistication proclaims a “historical” Jesus who might be anyone but who the saints and martyrs say he is. A social Gospel maintains that we are saved not by personal repentance but by social revolution; a Gospel of positive thinking maintains that we are saved by warm feelings and “be happy” attitudes.

It’s no dishonor for a Church not to preach false gospels.


I do not seek to convince readers that the Bible is a problematic construction – rather – Sola Scriptura Christians are problematic interpreters. The fruit of their work bears me out …

The championing of the Bible as the Word of God “over the Church” is a ruse. It is and has been a means of exalting culture and private fiefdoms over the proper life of the believing community, disrupting the continuity of faith. A very grievous example can be found in the very American reform community from which Kruger criticizes my Orthodox teaching. For the very groups that exalted the Bible as Sola Scriptura, for years also exalted a Bible-based justification for the most egregious racism the world has ever seen. It has been a matter to which reformed Christians are today attending with repentance (to their credit). But by what criteria did their fathers find such racism in the Scriptures? And by what criteria do they themselves now not find it in the Scriptures? Are they not simply giving voice to various cultural winds and using the Scriptures as a convenient support? Have they not always done this? Today’s proponents of the radical sexual agenda rightly point out that these “Bible-based” teachers have always found Biblical support for their own cultural prejudices. Their history should leave them speechless.

(Fr. Stephen Freeman, responding to one particular Protestant critic of his perceptive recent blogs)

This reminds me of when my letter (or e-mail) to All Things Considered was read on air. With effort, I might find the original, but I recall the gist.

ATC had done a story on South African Dutch Calvinists justifying apartheid with some kind of Biblical or theological hocus-pocus. I wrote to assure ATC that the (Dutch Reformed) Christian Reformed Church in North America had condemned apartheid as a heresy, so there! We knew better than our South African white spiritual kin.


The purpose of the Church’s presence in the world is for the cure of humankind, and the restoration of the hearts of men and women. The Church thus functions as a therapy centered hospital, and the priests function as therapists. This Divine-human Organism is the living Body of Christ, the Church, and is life itself. The healing of the nous that comes within the life of the Church returns us to our true nature. In this state of wholeness our faculties are able to use logic and reason as it was meant to be used. Our reason and logic becomes the rightful vehicle by which we can explore the universe, and behold all that God has created, and science, nature, and even the cosmos, can be seen in the light of the heart as the center of our self-awareness.

(Abbot Tryphon)


Progressives are amazingly consistent. They always seek to solve problems of the soul by re-describing them as problems with society.

(R.R. Reno in First Things. Paywall likely.)

Increasingly, I find myself needing to resist this temptation. There’s a lot of ways we could ameliorate problems, no doubt with fresh or exhumed unintended consequences, but there’s no sense in imagining we’ll immanentize the eschaton.


Unlike American liberalism, Christianity is not a parochial culture. A two-thousand-year tradition with transcendent ambitions and a global reach, it encourages free inquiry because it has texture, nuance, and depth: “In my father’s house there are many mansions.” When Wheaton requires its faculty to sign a statement of faith, the college is requiring its faculty to stand inside that culture and tradition, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stand still. By contrast, our academic culture today is thin and lacks an authoritative tradition, even an academic one. That’s why the latest academic fashions and political passions become so tyrannical. They meet with little resistance.

(R.R. Reno in First Things. Paywall likely.)


By the late 1960s, a fierce, new breed of young woman was celebrated, “booted, pantsuited, birth-controlled and pleasure-goaled,” as Gail Sheehy wrote in a piece about New York’s Maxwell’s Plum, the mother church of singles bars. They were the shock troops of what was called “the sexual revolution.”

Like all revolutions, this one would devour its children, as an epidemic of venereal diseases ensued, including ones many of us had never heard of before—herpes, chlamydia, genital warts. The revolution also produced the Jacobin grimness of activists who brought politics into the bedroom, as in the feminist journal Off Our Backs. There was no going back to the ancien régime. A cult of youth worship and elitist alarm about overpopulation made parenthood unfashionable and, with the pill, unnecessary.

(Henry Allen, reviewing The Birth of the Pill, by Jonathan Eig)

Some people probably will find those two paragraphs inspiring.


In essence, our liberal theories offer us truths wrapped in falsehoods—the truth that we are all created equal wrapped in the falsehood of a society built by independent individuals choosing to unite; the truth that we all deserve to be free wrapped in the falsehood that freedom is the absence of restraint. The truths may add up to a case for the long way to liberty, but the falsehoods can easily be taken as a case for the short way: the liberation of the individual from outside constraints to pursue his wants as he wills.

(Yuval Levin)

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.