A theological note

I went to a lecture yesterday on the ins and outs of the Arian heresy. Obscure though the Arians may sound today, when John Henry Newman studied them and their sympathizers around 1830 the situation reminded him of nothing so much as the Anglican church, lots of politicos and time-servers with no bottom line making a virtue of things by calling a mess the “via media.” To me the whole thing seems more like the Church in recent decades:

  • Intellectual entrepreneurs make careers for themselves based on novel interpretations that are flashy and hard to get rid of based on current ways of thinking even though they’re clearly wrong from a normal perspective.
  • The entrepreneurs pick up powerful support outside the Church, from emperors or whatever, because entrepreneurs like to maneuver and the politically powerful like rationalizing interpretations that (i) do away with mysteries that by their nature suggest human limitations, and (ii) cut traditional authorities they don’t control down to size. (It occurs to me that the politically powerful also like irrationalizing heresies, Frank Griswold’s “pluriform truths” for example, that deprive religion of all content and so make it harmless. An historical precedent would be the reliance by Legalist thinkers in ancient China on Taoist concepts that debunk all rational thought and so make it conceptually impossible to criticize or even comment on anything the authorities do. Multiculturalism and deconstruction serve the same function in our own day.)
  • Ordinary believers don’t like what’s going on and reject it, sometimes in mindless or even violent ways, but in the long run they get drawn in to some extent if only because of the appeal of factionalism and the fact that everything seems up in the air.
  • A few principled types take a stand and get abused for it. They eventually win, magna est veritas et praevalebit (“truth is mighty and will prevail, a bit”*) but it takes a very long time and involves a lot of reverses because (i) it’s easier to present snappy sophisms than persuasive descriptions of truths we can’t altogether grasp in any event, (ii) intellectual entrepreneurs don’t care that much about what they say so long as they get somewhere, so they’re always shifting ground in response to shifting advantages, and (iii) entrepreneurs are better organizers, and secular authorities basically don’t like any religious authority they have to respect and can’t play around with.

The lecture, by the way, was one of a multi-year series of lectures John Rao gives on Church history in New York City, in Greenwich Village of all places. They’re very good, and if you’re in the area and vaguely interested in the subject you should attend.

* [That’s a joke.]

6 thoughts on “A theological note”

  1. In thinking about liberalism
    In thinking about liberalism (today’s “emperor”), and your posts about it, I’m struck by its vacuity. It is devoid of content. If a liberal were to be or become a Christian, he would be struck by the content of Christianity; it would horrify him. What would he do? If a committed liberal, he would do his best to dilute and empty Christianity of all content, and transform it into a reflection of vacuous liberalism.

    The vacuous is now hailed as the highest “spirituality” (itself a vacuous term). And, as you point out, the techniques for the dilution of institutions through history have been predictable, and the secular or temporal powers are pleased to promote these techniques as a means of eviscerating a competitor for allegiance.

    • Excelent comments,but…
      Spirituality,comes from Spiritualitè a term coined by jesuits in France. If liberals comes to Christ(as a Catholic you are thinking on Malcolm Muggeridge?,I can add to him many other people),they can be horrified by his/her vacuity and void from liberalism,I think it is a greatly apropiated description from Conversion/Repentance experience!. I think we must to recover the concept from horrendous-in classical meaning- as description term from Sacred Things. Softness and Lightness in people`s approach to our Pantocrator God,is root to near every disater and evil in our churches and worl. There are a risk to permit our old ways and ideas to influence our conception and practice from christianity,but discipleship,teachings by church leaders and other brothers;and christian fellowship are very important in overcoming it,in Muggeridge case it was very important for him,to be accepted by his fellow catholics.

      • When I said “spirituality” is
        When I said “spirituality” is a vacuous term, I was referring to its use as a substitute for “religious feeling,” as if the existence or attributes of God depend upon an individual’s fleeting feelings about such matters.

        This kind of “spirituality” makes reality the servant of the self and its desires, and makes religion a mere projection of one’s individual “religious feeling.”

        This is what is passed off as “spirituality” these days.

        • This Spirituality is similar to libertarianism
          Every political decision must to be based-according to many libertarian thinkers-,in satisfying individual desires. Reads the node “The Modern Ideology from Left according to Leftists” by Ramòn R. in this site. Use search engine.

          • Modernist spirituality is a g
            Modernist spirituality is a good reflection of the consumer society; it’s cafeteria style religion—God doesn’t create or choose you, you create and choose your own God according to your own preferences of the moment.

            I suppose one could consider this to be “libertarian,” but I usually consider the term “libertarian” to refer to the relationship between society and the state, to wit, the state should not interfere in society or the market and should engage only in those activities that are absolutely necessary (such as national defense).

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