Wednesday, 2/24/16

  1. Dearly Beloved …
  2. Qui sedes ad dexteram patris
  3. Purgatory, Sanctification, Theosis
  4. Othering
  5. It’s a dispossessed thing. You wouldn’t understand


Fine rhetoric from the eulogy for Antonin Scalia:

We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.

It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, son of the father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of him. because of his life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.

As my friend who brought this to my attention on Facebook said, “Yes!”


There’s a richness in the eulogy’s “seated at the right hand of the Father” that would have almost completely eluded me before I was Orthodox, by the way.

This is a part of the Christian faith Evangelicalish Protestantism (I cannot speak from experience of any other sort of Protestantism but that and Calvinism) seems to have almost entirely lost (I’m tempted to say “thrown out with the bathwater,” but some continued observing Ascension after the Reformation). The Incarnation wasn’t a temporary trick so Jesus could die for the sin we deserved to die for. It’s permanent. We need it to be permanent.

Glorified human flesh is seated at the right hand of the Father. It’s a big enough deal to make it into the Creed. The solution to the human problem was not solved just by Christ bearing our sins to the Cross.

Do you really think Joel Osteen has a clue about this?


Fr. Paul’s eulogy for his father did sound one jarring note for me, formerly Protestant, now Orthodox:

 He was a practicing Catholic, “practicing” in the sense that he hadn’t perfected it yet. Or rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him. And only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter heaven. We are here, then, to lend our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God’s grace, in freeing Dad from every encumbrance of sin.

(Emphasis added) Neither in Protestantism nor in Orthodoxy is this bolded statement comfortable.

In Evangelical Protestantism, Christ being brought to perfection in us would be called “sanctification,” but Evangelicalism has become largely antinomian about what one does between The Sinner’s Prayer® and immediate entry to heaven upon death.

In Orthodoxy, Christ being brought to perfection in us is deepened to Theosis or Divinization:

In the second century, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (c. 130–202) said that God “became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.” Irenaeus also wrote, “If the Word became a man, It was so men may become gods.” He added: “Do we cast blame on him [God] because we were not made gods from the beginning, but were at first created merely as men, and then later as gods? Although God has adopted this course out of his pure benevolence, that no one may charge him with discrimination or stinginess, he declares, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are sons of the Most High.” … For it was necessary at first that nature be exhibited, then after that what was mortal would be conquered and swallowed up in immortality.”

(Wikipedia, hyperlinks omitted) But “perfection”? We share with Catholics the sense that this is vanishingly rare during lifetime, but (apart from possible difference on how we think of heaven itself) we trust in God’s mercy, without a doctrine of Purgatory to explain how we complete our repentance, getting from “not quite there yet” to “Okay, you’re ready.”


I recall my Freshman year of college moderately well. It was 1967-68, and although the college, Billy Graham’s alma mater, was mostly clean, well-scrubbed strivers, hanging out with hippies in Chicago and even bringing them to campus as guests was a common gesture of open-mindedness.

Then someone committed an outrage: they brought a biker dude of some sort to the dining hall. Hippies, good; bikers, bad.

I’m pretty well convinced nearly 50 years later that every group has its “Others.” For swaths of America, it used to be Catholics; for others, southerners and the working class continue to be contemned:

[I]n London or Oxford from the 1970s onwards I never witnessed the naked disdain for the working class that much of America’s metropolitan elite finds permissible in 2016.

When my wife and I bought some land in West Virginia and built a house there, many friends in Washington asked why we would ever do that. Jokes about guns, banjo music, in-breeding, people without teeth and so forth often followed. These Washington friends, in case you were wondering, are good people. They’d be offended by crass, cruel jokes about any other group. They deplore prejudice and keep an eye out for unconscious bias. More than a few object to the term, “illegal immigrant.” Yet somehow they feel the white working class has it coming.

(Clive Cook) And the working class (maybe others, too) is responding by “voting with the middle finger.” [Trump and Sanders]

Yet, contrary to reports, the Trump supporters I’m talking about aren’t fools. They aren’t racists either. They don’t think much would change one way or the other if Trump were elected. The political system has failed them so badly that they think it can’t be repaired and little’s at stake. The election therefore reduces to an opportunity to express disgust. And that’s where Trump’s defects come in: They’re what make him such an effective messenger.

The fact that he’s outrageous is essential. (Ask yourself, what would he be without his outrageousness? Take that away and nothing remains.) Trump delights mainly in offending the people who think they’re superior — the people who radiate contempt for his supporters. The more he offends the superior people, the more his supporters like it. Trump wages war on political correctness. Political correctness requires more than ordinary courtesy: It’s a ritual, like knowing which fork to use, by which superior people recognize each other.

(Cook again)

Confession: I’ve made jokes about Kentucky ball-players giving each other high sixes, but that’s more a Hoosier-Kentucky sports rivalry, playing off stereotypes, than real contempt. Some of the smartest people I know, even if they’ve got a little drawl, are from the Bluegrass State.


In our era, young children are continually being pressured to engage in self-expression before they are shown how to think coherently, and they are pressured to engage in reasoning before they are given the facts with which to reason. The result is not intellectual freedom but enslavement, for someone that is never taught how to think is by default trained to be a bondservant to the latest fad or fashion.

(Robin Phillips, Saints & Scoundrels) The theories are multiplying (evidence mounting?) on how Donald Trump the protest candidate of those who see themselves as somehow dispossessed — by political correctness on campus or the shrinking of religious freedom narrated by snide denials that it’s shrinking.

“Fad” and “fashion” aren’t used in most of those theories, but they have in common that Trump support is not rationally defensible from the perspective of whatever demographic is demonstrating support for him.

On a related note,  a sitting college professor writes brutally, and not anonymously, of his students and the system that produced them:

At best they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance.  They are not to be blamed for their pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature.  It is the hallmark of their education.  They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present. 

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement.  Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings.  The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school.  It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide.  The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.

We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders. What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, historyless free agents, and educational goals composed of contentless processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.”  Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).  In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.  Regardless of major or course of study, the main object of modern education is to sand off remnants of any cultural or historical specificity and identity that might still stick to our students, to make them perfect company men and women for a modern polity and economy that penalizes deep commitments.   Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.

My students are the fruits of a longstanding project to liberate all humans from the accidents of birth and circumstance, to make a self-making humanity. 

I must stop quoting Deneen; read the whole thing if this has whetted your appetite.

Confession: I don’t know some of the facts Deneen considers benchmarks of western cultural literacy — but I wish I did.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.