In progress we trust
Faith in progress is just as basic to modernity as the Second Coming was to Christianity.
Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies
Sorry if I’ve posted this before. It just says so much in so few words.
We celebrated Theophany, the third-most important of the Church’s feasts, on January 6. The feast technically continues several days, and included last Sunday:
The true Light has appeared and bestows illumination on all. Christ is baptized with us, even though He is above all purity; and thus He infuses sanctification into the water, which then becomes the purifying agent of our souls. What is seen belongs to earth; but what is understood transcends the heavens. By means of a bath comes salvation; by means of water comes the Spirit; by means of immersion does our ascent to God come to pass. How wonderful are Your works, O Lord! Glory to You.
One of the "Praises" ("Lauds") in Matins ("Orthros") January 9 (emphasis added, because that caught my attention).
American Christianity collection
The "democratic" seeds sown
Every theological vagabond and peddler may drive here his bungling trade, without passport or license, and sell his false ware at pleasure. What is to come of such confusion is not now to be seen.
Philip Schaff, The Principle of Protestantism (1844)
178 years later, we can see a bit more clearly.
To see ourselves as others see us
Author and speaker Christine Caine recently shared that she was stunned by what she encountered when she first visited churches in the United States.
Before coming to the U.S., “I had never seen a flag in a church,” said Caine. “Never.”
I found my way into this Twitter thread because John MacArthur was quoted as saying:
I don’t even support religious freedom. Religious freedom is what sent people to hell. To say I support religious freedom is to say I support idolatry. It’s to say I support lies. I support hell. I support the kingdom of darkness.
Unfortunately, the quote was accurate, and he doubled down disastrously. MacArthur is a big-name Evangelical of the sort I would have thought fairly moderate.
Comic and tragic
I’m from the Midwest, the home of emotional withdrawal, where I grew up among serious Bible scholars for whom the result of scholarship was schism and bitterness ….
That Keillor is a low-key comic doesn’t mean it’s not true. Witness this:
The "Alliance of Reformed Churches" to which conservatives from the RCA are fleeing, is attracting interest from Churches of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) as well. Both a roiled by similar contentious issues, implicating sexuality.
I was already an adult, when the PCA was forming from dissident members of the United Presbyterian Church. Our church was considering affiliating with PCA. They were until recently reputed to be rock-ribbed conservative Calvinists. Now, they’re in some trouble.
Upon completing law school, and before entering the Orthodox Church, I spent roughly 15 years in the CRC.
It blows my mind how the PCA and CRC have changed in so short a time. (If you’re curious, or just not conversant with the polyglot Protestant world, "Presbyterian" and "Reformed" historically are the English and continental Calvinist Churches, respectively; for an American, there’s no high doctrinal barriers between them.)
We’re not total outliers, though
I have been reviewing some of my personal notes, and one portion of Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary has particular religious valence. McGilchrist is a Brit, and so his observations aren’t focused on America, but presumably apply throughout the post-Reformation, post-Enlightenment West:
- One can see the second process (a rejection of the right hemisphere’s world) in the way in which the decline of metaphoric understanding of ceremony and ritual into the inauthentic repetition of empty procedures in the Middle Ages prompted, not a revitalisation of metaphoric understanding, but an outright rejection of it, with the advent of the Reformation … The Reformation is the first great expression of the search for certainty in modern times. As Schleiermacher put it, the Reformation and the Enlightenment have this in common, that ‘everything mysterious and marvellous is proscribed … What is so compelling here is that the motive force behind the Reformation was the urge to regain authenticity, with which one can only be profoundly sympathetic. The path it soon took was that of the destruction of all means whereby the authentic could have been recaptured.
- Decapitation of statues by the Reformers took place because of the confounding of the animate and the inanimate, and the impossibility of seeing that one can live in the other metaphorically. In a world where metaphoric understanding is lost we are reduced to ‘either/or’, as Koerner says. Either the statue is God or it is a thing: since it is ‘obviously’ not God, it must be a thing, and therefore ‘mere wood’, in which case it has no place in worship.
- Protestantism being a manifestation of left-hemisphere cognition is – even though its conscious self-descriptions would deny this – itself inevitably linked to the will to power, since that is the agenda of the left hemisphere.
- Removing the places of holiness, and effectively dispensing with the dimension of the sacred, eroded the power of the princes of the Church, but it helped to buttress the power of the secular state.
- In essence the cardinal tenet of Christianity – the Word is made Flesh – becomes reversed, and the Flesh is made Word.
- There are obvious continuities between the Reformation and the Enlightenment. They share the same marks of left-hemisphere domination: the banishment of wonder; the triumph of the explicit, and, with it, mistrust of metaphor; alienation from the embodied world of the flesh, and a consequent cerebralisation of life and experience.
- The destruction of the sacerdotal power of the Church was a goal of the French Revolution, as it had been of the Reformation. The Reformation, however, had not been nakedly, explicitly, secular: it had purported to replace a corrupt religion with a purified one. All the same its effect had been to transfer power from the sacerdotal base of the Catholic Church to the state, an essential part of the relentless process of secularisation, in the broadest sense – by which I mean the re-presentation of human experience in purely rationalistic terms, necessarily exclusive of the Other, and the insistence that all questions concerning morality and human welfare can and should be settled within those terms – which I would see as the agenda of the left hemisphere. (I am fascinated at the pregnant qualifiers "nakedly, explicitly".)
- Eichendorff said that Romanticism was the nostalgia of Protestants for the Catholic tradition.
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