Sunday, 8/14/22

Doctrine ramifies

Paul, by proclaiming the body ‘a temple of the Holy Spirit’, was not merely casting as sacrilege attitudes towards sex that most men in Corinth or Rome took for granted. He was also giving to those who serviced them, the bar girls and the painted boys in brothels, the slaves used without compunction by their masters, a glimpse of salvation.

Tom Holland, Dominion

Intellect, reason, theology

Emphasis on the intellect and reason is what gives Western Christian theology a more secular and scholastic character ….

Dr. Eugenia Scarvelis Constantinou, ‌Thinking Orthodox

And along similar lines:

We long to know God (it is our natural will, indeed). It is also true that what we know of God is extremely limited. Our knowledge is always framed with an abiding ignorance. Christ, in His extreme humility, embraced certain expressions of ignorance. When asked about the time of the “restoration of the kingdom,” Christ said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” (Acts 1:7) There are boundaries to our knowledge, an ignorance that is proper to our nature.

Our modern drive towards mastery of all things (so as to mass-produce universal pleasure) makes us rebel against the very notion of ignorance. If something cannot be fully known, then we declare it to be unworthy of knowledge. My own approach has been to start with what we do know: we know Christ and His death and resurrection. We have His commandments and the abiding presence of the Church which He gave us. And this knowledge of God through Christ is bounded by ignorance. Does it answer every question? Of course not – and it would be unhelpful if it did.

Within the life of the Church, there is a possible temptation to “get behind Christ,” to seek out “God” without reference to our ignorance and limitations. It is, I think, something inherent to the “mysticism” we find in the Church – a relationship with God without boundaries. However, our ignorance is a boundary and is as essential to the truth of our being as is our body itself. We are creatures, bounded by limits. Everything we know, everyone we know, we know within limits. Our ignorance surrounds us on every side.

The narrow way exults in what it knows, and ponders with humility the ignorance that accompanies it. To be whole is also to be who and what I truly am. It recognizes the tensions within us, and though it struggles to know God more fully, it also struggles to know its own limits and the mystery of our own ignorance.

God give us grace to walk in such a place.

Fr. Stephen Freeman

Counter-intuitive consequences

The legislation also demonstrates one of the oddest results of the modern emphasis on the radical freedom of the individual. In such a world, all must theoretically be allowed to have their own narratives of identity. But because some narratives of identity inevitably stand in opposition to others, some identities must therefore be privileged with legitimate status and others treated as cultural cancers. And that means that, in an ironic twist, the individual ceases to be sovereign and the government has to step in as enforcer. The lobby group of the day then decides who is in and who is out, with the result that, in this instance, the gay or trans person who wants to become straight or “cis” (to use the pretentious jargon), cannot be tolerated. His narrative calls into question that of others. We might say that his very existence is a threat. To grant any degree of legitimacy to his desire is to challenge the normative status of the desires of others.

Carl R. Trueman, Prohibiting Prayer in Australia

Consequences generally

My people weren’t huggers. We were Bible-believing Christians who avoided physical contact lest we contract the religious doubts of the embracee and who knows but what it could be true? My brother was a Bible believer who married a girl who then catholicized him. I could say more but I don’t want to cause trouble.

Garrison Keillor

TEC gets tough on (some) sin

Lest it be thought that the Episcopal Church has completely lost its way and will tolerate all manner of unrepented sin, a group calling itself “Episcopal Survivors Network” is demanding that St. Paul’s parish in Alexandria, Virginia “return [as] money derived from torture,” all tithes and offerings of two members of the parish thought to be tainted by their having invented novel forms of — ahem! — enhanced interrogation.

(St. Paul’s Episcopal in Alexandria Va. refuses to return funds from torture)

Christianity and Poetry

Highly recommended: Dana Gioia, Christianity and Poetry and a sort of companion podcast. Thesis: "Poetry is not merely important to Christianity. It is an essential, inextricable, and necessary aspect of religious faith and practice."

Christianish Trivia

Is this a great country or what? We now have had (at least) two “Christian” Bitcoin knock-offs:

This, too:

Wise Words

I make it my business to not make the hierarchy my business.

Rod Dreher, Meeting ‘Father Maximos’



Ressentiment, a mixture of jealousy and frustration born out of humiliation.

The Economist.

I’ve run into this word for decades but never had bothered looking it up for the nuances. In my defense, I don’t think I ever used it in my own writing, aware that it connoted something I might not intend.


A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.

Attributed to William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, by Iain McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary.

Magic Words of Dismissal

One reason this newsletter has ‘fatalism’ in the title is that the word is often used a way that amuses me. It gives away the limits of what someone will allow themselves to think:

Alice: Renewable sources aren’t capable of supplying sufficient energy to replace fossil fuels on a global scale if current consumption patterns continue.

The Queen: That’s just fatalism!

The Queen isn’t addressing Alice’s point. She is using ‘fatalism’ as a magic word of dismissal to make difficult thoughts go away. If it’s ‘just fatalism’, then she doesn’t have to think about whether or not it is true. Nobody respectable is a fatalist.

Other magic words of dismissal are used in similar ways.

Anarchy: used to dismiss the idea that the state might not carry moral authority. Sometimes used to dismiss the idea that the state doesn’t carry overwhelming moral authority. Obviously, the word is never used these ways by anarchists.

Mysticism: used to dismiss any worry that there is more to the world than a chatty primate can understand.

Parochialism: used to dismiss any possibility that local interests might be more important than the interests of global networks.


"The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can’t play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness …." (G.K. Chesterton)

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