Christianity Responsible for the Decline of the West?

“Yes,” say many non-Christian traditionalists, and they seem to have a point. The western church promotes liberalism almost as much as the secularists, and it’s easy for a cynic to see current Christendom as just another part of the Left’s evil empire—with exceptions being sufficiently rare not to alter the overall judgment. And it’s easy for the selfsame cynic to see the liberalism that is dragging us down as a bastardized version—or perhaps even the natural fulfillment—of Christianity.

And if Christianity is responsible for the decline of our homeland and our people, it would seem that we ought to stay away from it.

But the validity of this judgment depends on the referent for the word “Christianity.” Does the word simply refer to the totality of persons, institutions, words and deeds that are conventionally called “Christian?” Or, while conceding the validity of this first meaning, can we see an additional and more fundamental meaning?

Christian Scripture claims that the things of this world do not just happen. They have a divine order, ordained by God. According to the Bible—which is God’s Word and therefore fully trustworthy—the church is not just a human phenomenon. Its existence and progress is ordained by God with the purpose of saving sinners and sanctifying believers through the proclamation of Scripture and the administration of the sacraments. That word “Christianity,” then, refers fundamentally to the preaching of the Word of God (both inside and outside the walls of the church building), worship, prayer, the administration of the sacraments, and the other endeavors that relate to these primary Christian activities. And at an even more basic level, Christianity is God working—generally behind the scenes—to save sinners. At this level, Christianity is fully invisible except to those who believe the life-giving truths that God has told us in the pages of Scripture.

The politically-correct foolishness that occurs within so much of the institutional church, then, is not the proper meaning of “Christianity.”

We must also point out that Scripture frequently warns against false teachers, false gospels, and false Christs. These repeated warnings show, at minimum, that holding to a proper form of Christianity is of vital importance, and that there will be many counterfeits of Christianity, and that it is possible for Christians to recognize the false versions of their religion. Not everything conventionally called “Christian” is wholesome, and it is only to be expected that perversions of Christianity will have toxic results for nations as well as individuals. The situation decried by secular traditionalists was anticipated by Scripture.

Why then is so much of Christendom not doing its God-ordained job, and instead participating in (or at least tolerating) the evil system of the world? No authoritative explanation has been provided to us by God, so we must be content to observe that all human activities are corrupted by sin to at least a certain extent, that poisonous liberalism is nowadays wildly popular and therefore irresistible even to most Christians, and that God has good reasons (known only to Himself) for everything He permits.

So is Christianity in the proper sense of individuals saved from God’s wrath through repentance and faith in Christ, along with prayer, worship, accurate proclamation of the Gospel, and suchlike activities, responsible in any sense for the decline of the West? Clearly not.

At the same time, we Christians must acknowledge that our house is corrupt. We make the assertion that true Christianity is not responsible for the decline of the West, not to avoid judgment, but to keep up our spirits. True Christianity has become something like an ideal that is rarely achieved, but this is no reason to abandon it. On the contrary, it is reason to pursue Christianity more zealously, and to protect it more wholeheartedly once we find it.

One last point, addressed to you non-Christian traditionalists, neo-reactionaries, or whatever you call yourselves. You have enough wisdom to see that your nation is in danger, and you also recognize that there is much foolishness in the Christian church. You are correct on both counts. But do not let the foolishness of the church distract you from an important truth.

You see, I know something about you even though I’ve never met you:  You feel guilty.

Nothing personal about that. I feel guilty too. And that’s because you and I are guilty. All men are guilty.

A traditionalist is a man who is perceptive enough to realize that something is seriously wrong with the status quo. And the ultimate problem with the status quo is that man, on account of his sin, is guilty before a holy God. That’s why man erects false systems like the current politically-correct liberalism. He wants to solve his problem of guilt by pretending that the world can be made right through a liberal socio-political order that will make all men free and equal. But the effort must fail, as we traditionalists know.

If there were no God, guilt would be a meaningless concept. But man feels guilt, because he senses correctly.

And only Christianity solves the problem of your guilt. Because of who Jesus Christ is and what he has done, your sins can be forgiven, through your repentance and faith in Christ. This last sentence is, of course, just a summary of a vast lifelong process. But the process begins in an instant when, after learning the truth about Jesus Christ, you come to see him as what he is: your only hope. At that instant you are completely saved, even if the working out of it lasts a lifetime. That’s the good news of true Christianity.

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60 thoughts on “Christianity Responsible for the Decline of the West?

  1. Alan, I suspect that even the best of us fails to grasp just how not-yet-Christian he is. What is sometimes called the Decline of the West is the continuing, relentless disintegration of the not-yet-Christian world under the perpetual action of grace. The actual “reactionism” is the resistance of the grossly not-yet-Christian world to the process; the actual “reactionism” is the petulant rejection of grace.

    • Tom, I’m having trouble grasping your comment here. How do you see the disintegration of the West as part of the perpetual action of grace?

      • The disintegration, the suicide, of the West is the resistance of modernity, a purely Western phenomenon, to action of grace, i.e., “the petulant rejection of grace.” But to stymie the resistance to grace is part of the action of grace, and grace stymies petulance by contradicting, thwarting, and humiliating it. Grace not only rewards; it punishes, or rather it permits the fool to punish himself. Grace is nothing less than teleological causality. Hence the stuttering. bloody, murderous enormity of the modern crisis. Five hundred years from now, when historians write about the last half of the Twentieth and the first half of the Twenty-First Centuries, they will compare that period, in its profound corruption, to the sanguine-pornographic worst of the Latin and Byzantine Empires, and to anything else equally contrary to and contemptuous of the structure of reality.

        Alan, brother, this is the most important exchange you and I have ever had. It transcends the “thread.”

        There is a remarkable passage in The Odyssey, Book I. Zeus tells Athene that (I paraphrase, but accurately), Men blame their misfortunes on the gods; but they themselves, by their actions, are responsible either for their happiness or their misery.

        Plutarch, a virtuous pagan, writes that God, in the singular, punishes a crime from the very instant of its commission, in the generous hope that the trespasser will repent.

        To Alan: It startles me, too.

        To Kristor: I saw your comment at Laura’s website and remarked the convergence of thinking.

        To Felipe: Your question answers itself — the Sheikdoms are “hellish places.”

      • What you say is so big that I have trouble wrapping my mind around it. Each part makes sense as a part, but the sum is mind-boggling. Modern man is certainly kicking against the goads, because he hates God. But to see this as Grace, as God’s tough love: Well, I can acknowledge it, but it seems uncanny.

        Modern man thinks that if God is to exist, then He has to be Nice. But the God of the Bible is not Nice. Tough grace is the sort of thing He would do. And how else could a nation or an entire age be brought to repentance except by a civilizational catastrophe?

      • Tom: it should hardly surprise us, I suppose, that two Orthosphereans find themselves on the same wavelength. Still it struck me, reading this comment of yours on the train this morning, that just last evening I said something almost identical in a comment to a post over at Thinking Housewife:

        It is not quite accurate to say that God punishes us for our sins, although to be sure that is how it feels to us. It is only sort of accurate. Just as virtue is its own reward, so is sin its own punishment. Sin just is disagreement with God, and alienation from him. It is also, therefore, disagreement with the order of being (“the order of being” is just a different way of saying “God”); and in any contest of the feeble creaturely sinner with either the order of the cosmos or God, the sinner is obviously going to get totally thrashed. In order for this thrashing to occur, God doesn’t need to do anything special. All he has to do is just stand there, being who he is, like a mountain. The sinner inflicts all the punishment by thrashing himself against the mountain, trying to force the mountain to do or be as he might wish – trying, that is, to make life so that sin is not sin, which is in effect an attempt to make God so that he is not God.

      • Well, if this is really a punishment for resisting grace, then how do you explain other civilizations which resist grace possibly even more fiercely and yet are clearly not walking to their suicides? I mean, some of them are hellish places, but many aren’t (think about the rich Arabs in Dubai), and they are surviving just fine …. my concrete examples:
        *Islamic world
        *China
        *Sub-saharan Africa
        *India

        Well, since the West is the only civilization comitting suicide, so the list could simply include all of the world minus the west.

  2. I think your perspective is off. Political correctness isn’t some good intention system created by people trying to find god… it’s a system created by Satan. Christians keep using the mildest of terms for people and groups that clearly driven by devil as evidenced by it’s fruit.

    • Yes, political correctness is a satanic system. And today’s Christendom mostly doesn’t want to acknowledge this fact, because they have largely abandoned the faith.

  3. Fr. Alexander Schmemann opines in For the Life of the World that all of modernity’s “isms” are degenerate forms (bastardizations) of Christianity, as they never would have occurred (or occurred to anyone) without Christianity. I agree with him, and we should expect it to be so. When I commented on Dr. Charlton’s post about the good emperors’ persecuting Christians, I wrote:

    I realize that any truth will have its corresponding and concomitant errors. I believe that it is Aristotle who uses the image of archery to illustrate the search for truth. One aims at the mark, which is small, but one may miss the mark in many ways—namely, at every other point. It is easy to err, and it is not surprising that we Christians repeatedly fail in our understanding of God’s way. The path to truth is hard, and we are quite weak for the task.

    We expect most people to misunderstand complex mathematics. Should we have different expectations for understanding the greatest objects?

    • Joseph, Eric Voegelin writes in The Ecumenic Age that the emperors were quite right to persecute Christianity, since they correctly perceived that Christianity doomed the Pagan-Imperial order.

      • Since it is the duty of a Monarch is is to create an environment where virtue can flourish and since the virtue of Justice is traditionally described as giving each what is due to him and since God is due worship, any Monarch which prevents the worship of God is failing as a ruler and thus bad.

    • Your point, Joseph, as I understand it is that Christianity introduces a new way of understanding reality, a way which is complex and subtle and therefore can lead to error.

      Certainly such ideas as faith and works as complementary rather than antithetical, the three persons of God, the Incarnation, and predestination are difficult and can easily lead to misunderstanding. This misunderstanding, and the social trouble it may cause, is therefore a result of Christianity. Fair enough.

      At the same time, I reiterate my main point: The primary work of Christianity is the saving of souls by way of Word and sacrament. This is the most important result of Christianity, but it is invisible to the non-Christian critic.

  4. Fr. Alexander Schmemann opines in For the Life of the World that all of modernity’s “isms” are degenerate forms (bastardizations) of Christianity, as they never would have occurred (or occurred to anyone) without Christianity.

    Philosophies similar to modernism arose among both the ancient Chinese and the ancient Greeks. It’s hard to explain those as arising out of Christianity.

    • I cannot speak about Chinese philosophy, but I know a thing or two about the wisdom of the Greeks, and I agree with Fr. Alexander. Yes, there are forms of materialism (Milesians), evolution (Empedocles), and convention-dismissing relativism (sophists) (and Plato’s and Aristotle’s take downs of them are delightful), but I suspect that it takes an Abrahamic understanding of man and of the contingency of the world for intelligent, educated folks to believe in something like German idealism, leftist social doctrine, or the Cartesian mastery of nature program.

      • Hey guess what, if evolution is wrong, and everyone really does get more or less identical souls, then the only *possible* reason for Black dysfunction is White racism. And since 50 years of affirmative action haven’t done a thing, maybe it’s time to consider more drastic measures to combat White privilege.

      • Now Alan! You directly address non-Christian traditionalists, overtly openly evangelize them with the gospel, and then label the first respondent “off topic”?
        In what way are two souls equal? Where in Christianity does it say anyone gets identical souls? How does it then follow that black function is a function of white function- let’s see that in syllogism form?

        Romans 9: “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

        2 Tim 2: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.”

        1 Cor 12: “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will… And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

      • Evolution and whether “two souls are equal” is off topic. The topics are whether Christianity has contributed materially to the decline of the West and whether you need salvation from your sins.

      • if evolution is wrong

        Good so far.

        and everyone really does get more or less identical souls

        Nope. False premises lead to false conclusions.

        the only *possible* reason for Black dysfunction is White racism

        This is a non sequitur, literally, it does not follow.

        Off-topic indeed.

  5. However, Plato tends to foresee the insane depravity of which the mob is capable. The Republic and Laws in particular always strike me as prescient works. So, maybe strike “leftist social doctrine” from my list . . . though many in the Abrahamic tradition have considered Plato divinely inspired in one way or another.

  6. Why are Whites, especially of the Northern European variety, more likely to feel guilt than others? Could it have anything to do with the ancestral environment and adaptations to it? Nah, everyone is exactly identical because souls, or, God gave souls in the patterns He did for His reasons. Or maybe stuff like propensity to guilt isn’t in the soul. Well, you’ll figure out some way of explaining how God fits in with evolutionary psychology somehow.

    • God does not “fit in with evolutionary psychology.” God is the ultimate explanation of all things.

      Ancestral environment could have been a contributing factor, and a secondary cause, but the underlying cause is God’s creation of man and his nature.

      Regardless of whether some peoples are more likely to acknowledge guilt, it is real, for God determines the standards the violation of which make one guilty.

    • To assert that Northern Europeans have a greater propensity to guilt based on evolutionary developments, one would have to show that the pre-Christian Germanic peoples had a greater sense of guilt than the Ancient Greeks, Jews, Mesopotamians, etc. Since anyone familiar with the literature of these ancient cultures and Early Germanic literature knows that this was not the case, the proposition fails. I also think that the claim that modern Northern European person is more guilt ridden is highly dubious. What with the rights to abortion, euthanasia, and Whiggish views of history and all.

    • In cultural history there are either fundamental breaks or there is just one continuous stream running from the dawn of civilization to the present. If there is such a thing as Christian culture, and this is not just a development or transformation of classical culture, then it must be possible that we have entered upon a post-Christian culture for which Christianity is not responsible. This post-Christian culture may retain many Christian symbols and contain a good many individuals practicing genuine Christianity, but its fundamental structure is non-Christian or anti-Christian.

    • Franklin is not a Christian, so his understanding of Christianity is deficient. As I said, the most important part of Christianity is invisible to the non-Christian, who lacks the faith to see God at work saving souls through His church.

  7. Christianity made the West, so in a sense it’s true that Christianity is responsible for progressivism, just like in a sense its responsible for Stalinism and the scientific method and American football. *Any* Western ideological current will have Christian roots.

    It would make just as much sense, and as little, to blame progressivism on classical antiquity or the Hebrew bible.

    • I agree, and indeed the whole question of what caused the decline sounds like finger pointing after things went wrong.

      But, there do is a much more interesting question here to ask: Why is Christianity unable to stop liberalism?

      That’s the real question that we need to ask. A real, concrete, on-going problem, not just assigning blame. I think that liberalism is Satan’s final weapon against Christianity, it was cleverly development to exploit the weak points in Christianity such as forgiveness and so far we have no answer on how to turn the tide, every battle in the west is just another victory to liberalism.

      • We can’t know how this will play out, but liberalism, being a rejection of God, cannot last forever. God will triumph. That victory will not be without apparent cost to us, however.

        Lawrence Auster noted that liberalism was killing its host societies; the only question was whether those societies would reject liberalism before or after their destruction. He remained optimistic for many years, but he eventually changed his mind, concluding that the decadence and decay was too far advanced for any reasonable hope of recovery.

        For me, the turning point was June 28, 2012, when ObamaCare was deemed constitutional. As discussed at View From the Right, this meant the death of limited government of enumerated powers and therefore the beginning of tyranny. I haven’t been able to fly the flag since, even though I know I should.

        We have been living in the final days since Jesus’ ascension into heaven. How much longer until the visions of the Revelation come true? Only God knows.

      • > We have been living in the final days since Jesus’ ascension into heaven. How much
        > longer until the visions of the Revelation come true? Only God knows.

        This is a common conclusion: that those are signs of the end of times. But Luther thought that the Ottoman invasion of Hungary was a sign of the end of times … and he was completely wrong.

      • My point is that we have been in the final days since the ascent of Christ into heaven, and that no one but God knows when these days will end. The collapse of our civilization is not necessarily the end of days.

  8. There needs to be a distinction between a baptized Christian society (whose adherents are practicing or not), and the totality of Christian teaching/tradition (in regards to its creeds, doctrines, etc). Western society hasn’t been declining because of Christianity, in the latter sense. It’s declining because of the moral breakdown of the faithful population; and its rulers, leaders, clergy, etc. Without a concrete foundation of morality, virtues, ethics, etc… society is relativistic, which creates chaos and division, instead of unity.

    Intertwined with all this; are the many heresies since Christ; the philosophies of eastern/pagan origin, of the renaissance/enlightenment philosophies, and of modernist philosophies; the ever-changing secular governments (from Roman Empire to Kingdoms, to Revolutions, and Modern states, etc.); and the major fractures of the Eastern Orthodox & Reformation schisms; and foreign threats (such as, Muslim invasions).

    It’s very difficult to narrow down the root causes of decline, and most would blame Modernism, but even the word modernism is too ambiguous to define, unless one wants to start with the French Revolution (which is still debatable). If you try to trace the decline back to its root, you’ll end up going back to the 1st century AD (an exaggeration of course).

    Christianity today is viewed by the majority of people as an old tradition. It’s viewed as out-of-touch with modernism. Its churches are basically museums in most of Europe, and even the Vatican itself is now a tourist attraction, and the Pope is regarded as an equal to Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Mandela, or any other modern “martyr”. It’s akin to the fall of paganism in the Roman Empire. The old traditionalists, back then, tried to hold onto it, but alas, they failed. Christianity prevailed, while the civilization of the Roman/Greek Pagan gods faded away.

    Western civilization is on the brink of collapse, and the only thing holding it together are the quasi-dictatorial states with their military might. They will either collapse by warring with each other, or by violent revolutions, and it might fade away due to a new ideological movement (such as the modern state, that we acquired), or perhaps a mixture of all three.

    I went off on a rant, but to conclude on this subject. We can only speculate on the causes, but we will never be able to definitively answer who is responsible.

    • “It’s declining because of the moral breakdown of the faithful population; and its rulers, leaders, clergy, etc. Without a concrete foundation of morality, virtues, ethics, etc… society is relativistic, which creates chaos and division, instead of unity.”

      That was partly from Christianity failed to provide a path for true spirituality and spiritual realization, its doctrines are mostly just dogmas and theories on the paper, its general adherents are mostly on the pure human plane, therefore it was finally overcome by modern theories and values.

      • When did I claim to be Catholic, Mr. Alan Roebuck? Your mode of responding here is similar from another thread, which should be Christian and Catholic I suppose?

      • Stop calling me “Mr. Alan Roebuck.” It’s rude.

        It must have been when you said (not to me) “I have just swum out of the infidel cesspool of viewing your replying, my gentle Catholic brother.” Which, when I think of it more closely, seems to imply that you are an infidel.

        Or when you said “I was trying to “save souls”, which is what I learned from an extremely talented and pious Catholic who often presented here before.”

        And I’m not Catholic. I’m Protestant.

      • “Stop calling me ‘Mr. Alan Roebuck.’ It’s rude.”

        My friend, don’t you think that to order others to stop using a normal mode of speaking and to mock their typing errors are also rude?

        [AR: This is my house. You started the fight. I was just defending my house. Besides, there are standards of decorum.]

        “It must have been when you said (not to me) “I have just swum out of the infidel cesspool of viewing your replying, my gentle Catholic brother.” Which, when I think of it more closely, seems to imply that you are an infidel.”

        If you lack the basic sense of humor and irony, I can not help you for this, sorry.

        [AR: Since you are the newcomer, I can’t be expected to get your subtle implications.]

        And what do you mean by this, can you please tell me, that you first said I claimed to be Catholic, now infidel, who I am in your eyes eventually?

        [AR: I don’t know what you are, because you don’t speak clearly. All I know for sure is that you seem to be hostile to our position here at the Orthosphere. At any rate, since you are a stranger, the responsibility lies with you to clarify your position.]

        “Or when you said ‘I was trying to ‘save souls’, which is what I learned from an extremely talented and pious Catholic who often presented here before.’”

        I can learn from Catholics, from their “piety” and “love”, it does not directly mean that I am one of them.

        [AR: OK, now that you speak clearly, I believe you when you say you are not Catholic.]

      • Commenter, I infer from some of your comments here that you are capable of civilized, rational dialog. But you’re a cynic.

        And as I understand things, a cynic is a frustrated idealist. (That’s what I used to be.) Perhaps when you were younger you had hoped that the world would be a place that made sense and that contained beauty, truth and goodness. But then your hopes were dashed by a cruel reality. So now you’re a cynic.

        So you badmouth Christianity by saying that it may be beautiful in theory, but it fails in actual practice.

        As a non-Christian (I think that’s what you are), you can’t be faulted for not understanding the true nature of Christianity. You can’t be blamed, but you’re still wrong.

        According to the Bible, the Word of God, the purpose of Christianity is not to make all people virtuous and society well-ordered. No, the purpose of Christianity is to save some men from damnation, through their repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.

        And even when society looks pretty bad, God is still succeeding in his purpose of saving those whom he elected in eternity past. It’s not obvious, but it’s true.

      • “This is my house. You started the fight. I was just defending my house.”

        You consider I started the fight, and you intend to “defend”, right, then I have the right to fight back too, for self defence, don’t you agree?

        “Besides, there are standards of decorum.”

        If your (plural) “decorum” is just a form of mutual exchange of human sentiments, I despise it.

        “Since you are the newcomer, I can’t be expected to get your subtle implications.”

        Ok, then it would be even better.

        “I don’t know what you are, because you don’t speak clearly. ”

        You know that clarity often destroys all forms of “subtle” feelings and meanings. You would know who I am by who I am.

        “All I know for sure is that you seem to be hostile to our position here at the Orthosphere.”

        Here it is necessary to clarify: 1. I am against all forms of hypocrisy. 2. I am against all forms of empty talking, especially when people take pride from it. 3. I am against those who oppress and attack others by religiosity. 4. Which was the initial reason I came here, I am against those who give shelter for disgusting villain.

        “OK, now that you speak clearly, I believe you when you say you are not Catholic.”

        Why should I lie for this? You know that even if I uttered some unfocused complaining, I still can not achieve that degree of “love” of some Catholics.

      • 1. I am against all forms of hypocrisy. 2. I am against all forms of empty talking, especially when people take pride from it. 3. I am against those who oppress and attack others by religiosity

        But since you are a human being, you sometimes do these things too (with the possible exception of 3.). And as a human being, I hate them too. These are therefore no mark of distinction for you. Also, it has not been established that our position is “hypocrisy” or “empty talking” or “religious oppression.” That is your assumption, an assumption we reject.

        Surely you can’t be so naive as to think that you can come into our house with a (generally) hostile attitude and expect us to accept your attacks? Around here, you have to make some attempt rationally to justify your denigration of Christianity. If you make no such attempt, then you’re just a troll, even if an occasionally polite one.

      • “And as I understand things, a cynic is a frustrated idealist. (That’s what I used to be.)”

        I am not a cynic, my friend, still not “a frustrated idealist”, I am rather frustrated by those who pretend to be idealist in this age, and one of them used to be a darling of this blog.

        “Perhaps when you were younger you had hoped that the world would be a place that made sense and that contained beauty, truth and goodness.”

        Rather, when I am old, I have experienced that those who talk about “beauty, truth and goodness” all the time are often full of ugliness, lie and evil.

        “But then your hopes were dashed by a cruel reality.”

        You good Christians have contributed one biggest member of this cruel reality which I was dashed.

        “So you badmouth Christianity by saying that it may be beautiful in theory, but it fails in actual practice.”

        I am partly against Christianity, by my inner contemplation, from what I have read, and outer experience, from who I have met.

        “As a non-Christian (I think that’s what you are), you can’t be faulted for not understanding the true nature of Christianity.”

        I do think that Christians are often faulted for understanding the true nature of Christianity even more.

        “You can’t be blamed, but you’re still wrong.”

        My dear Alan, you good Christians often or even always use such mode of sentimental assertion, which just makes me to disregard you (plural) and your religion even more.

        “According to the Bible, the Word of God, the purpose of Christianity is not to make all people virtuous and society well-ordered.”

        This is not what I expect from it either.

        “No, the purpose of Christianity is to save some men from damnation, through their repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.”

        I am afraid that what I have experienced from Christianity is rather it prevents some men from being truly saved, and it is often exploited as a tool for individuals to pursue worldly ambitions of manipulating others.

        [AR: If God exists, then salvation is on His terms, not your terms. The rational man will want to know if God really does exist, and if He does, then then the rational man will acknowledge the world as God has created it, not as he wishes it to be.]

        “And even when society looks pretty bad, God is still succeeding in his purpose of saving those whom he elected in eternity past”

        Yes, at last, but in the middle of this course too many faults have already happened in the name of God and Christianity.

        [AR: Mankind does evil. Is mankind therefore fundamentally invalid? Obviously not. Therefore your reasoning here is invalid.]

      • “But since you are a human being, you sometimes do these things too”

        Maybe, but I do not do them continuously and intendedly.

        “These are therefore no mark of distinction for you.”

        How do you know, how can you make such assertion? What is your basis?

        “it has not been established that our position is ‘hypocrisy’ or ‘empty talking’ or ‘religious oppression.’ That is your assumption, an assumption we reject.”

        Yes, exactly, I have my right for my assumption, you have your right to reject. And there is no existed establishment, there is no such person can give such establishment either.

        “Surely you can’t be so naive as to think that you can come into our house with a (generally) hostile attitude and expect us to accept your attacks?”

        My friend, I have never had such a “naive” expectation for you to accept my “attacks”, you can be aggressive as much as you want, and as I said, I would have my self defence, you can directly ban me, there is no need for such useless discussion for this problem.

        “Around here, you have to make some attempt rationally to justify your denigration of Christianity.”

        I don’t have any “rational attempts” to justify anything, I only express my thoughts. And my “denigration” of Christianity and be directly and partly justified by the reaction of Christians here.

        “If you make no such attempt, then you’re just a troll, even if an occasionally polite one.”

        You can call me whatever you want.

      • “If God exists, then salvation is on His terms, not your terms.”

        No, for me, it is my terms, totally, even though God exists, he can not directly help me to change who I actually am.

        This is what I said that I consider Christian spirituality as passive, and it prevents someone from being truly saved, to be saved by true inner transformation.

        “then then the rational man will acknowledge the world as God has created it, not as he wishes it to be.”

        I acknowledge the world as God has created it, and humans have wasted it, and I have no wishes for how the world should be, I only wish there should be less human faults done in the disguise of the name of God.

        “Mankind does evil. Is mankind therefore fundamentally invalid? Obviously not. Therefore your reasoning here is invalid.”

        Those who do evil are fundamentally invalid, not the whole humankind. And I didn’t mean that Christianity itself is invalid, I only presented facts, from what I have experienced.

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  12. Christianity = mental dogmatism + emotional sentimentalism = virtual spirituality = proto-humanism

    [AR: I deleted this comment, but since JMSmith has responded, I’ve restored it.]

  13. A second comment from “Commenter” just landed in my e-mail, however I don’t find it here. Strangely, Alen’s response a 7:08 pm does appear. In any event, “Commenter” writes: “Christianity = mental dogmatism + emotional sentimentalism = virtual spirituality = proto-humanism.”

    To this I would answer:

    Every belief system has “dogmas” that are external to the system, and so cannot be proven by the system. Call them premises if you like. Since a dogma is an unargued proposition, I suppose it is “mental,” but this is true of every dogma. Christianity is not uniquely dogmatic, and so far as religions go, rather less dogmatic than some. For instance, it attempts to give an historical justification for the dogma of Christ’s resurrection.

    Certainly Christianity has an emotional side, as does just about every human activity. When feeling and exhibiting those emotions becomes the purpose, rather than a byproduct of, spiritual experience, one has “sentimentalism.” And there is, I don’t doubt, plenty of sentimentalism among Christians (although I’m not about to start pointing a finger). But sentimentalism here, as elsewhere, is a spiritual corruption, in which emotions become the purpose of an experience rather than its accompaniment.

    No doubt any spirituality that springs from a combination of false dogmas and emotional incontinence will very likely be a bogus or “virtual” spirituality. No doubt the spirituality of some Christians is bogus (although, once again, I’m not about to point a finger). But from the bogusness of the spirituality of some Christians does not follow the bogusness of Christian spirituality. No more than it follows from the wrongness of some scientists that science is wrong.

    The word “humanism” was first used, so far as I have been able to discover, to denote the Christological opinion of extreme Unitarians, which says that Jesus was only and entirely human (although apart from that a swell fellow). Since Christianity has always said that he was significantly more than that, this is clearly the Rubicon beyond which Christianity does not lie.

    • “Every belief system has ‘dogmas’ that are external to the system, and so cannot be proven by the system.”

      I can not understand here, what do you mean by “external to the system”, as far as I know, the dogmas of Christianity are its whole system. And true spirituality is not any “belief” or “system”.

      “Christianity is not uniquely dogmatic, and so far as religions go, rather less dogmatic than some. ”

      I totally disagree, it is extremely and wholeheartedly dogmatic.Can you give me any examples, what are that “some”?

      “For instance, it attempts to give an historical justification for the dogma of Christ’s resurrection.”

      That is just a part of its dogmas.

      “Certainly Christianity has an emotional side, as does just about every human activity. ”

      That is why it is on the same plane of “human activity”, and mostly never rise above that level.

      “When feeling and exhibiting those emotions becomes the purpose, rather than a byproduct of, spiritual experience, one has ‘sentimentalism.’”

      A true spiritual experience is totally opposite to human “emotions”.

      “But sentimentalism here, as elsewhere, is a spiritual corruption, in which emotions become the purpose of an experience rather than its accompaniment.”

      Christianity is sentimental in its root, its sentimentality has occupied too much space, and true spiritual experience too little.

      “No doubt any spirituality that springs from a combination of false dogmas and emotional incontinence will very likely be a bogus or “virtual” spirituality.”

      Not necessary “false dogmas” and “emotional incontinence”, it can be very accurate dogmas and moderate emotion, but it still is “virtual” as far as it fails to provide the spiritual realization which goes beyond pure human plane.

      “No doubt the spirituality of some Christians is bogus”

      I personally think that generally, Christian “spirituality” in reality is not spiritual at all, it is mostly a state of refined sentimentality.

      “But from the bogusness of the spirituality of some Christians does not follow the bogusness of Christian spirituality.”

      Even if all those “some Christians” do not exist, Christian spirituality is still a passive and low spirituality, whose many parts are purely humanistic, as far as what I read from Christian literature.

      “The word ‘humanism’ was first used, so far as I have been able to discover, to denote the Christological opinion of extreme Unitarians, which says that Jesus was only and entirely human (although apart from that a swell fellow).”

      I am not discussing the origin of word, I used “proto-humanism”, which means that I think Christianity paved the road for pure human state and human attitude, which lack any true transcendentality, as what is happening in the present world.

      “Since Christianity has always said that he was significantly more than that, this is clearly the Rubicon beyond which Christianity does not lie.”

      Yes, here lies the problem. it has always said something, in dogmas and papers, but it has seldomly reached those things, in reality.

      Christianity does not lie, yes, the problem is its truth just remains in mental level.

      • I see that much has passed while I slept. Commenter evidently misunderstands the meaning of the word dogma, which does not mean a proposition propounded by authority, and justified by nothing but that authority. Admittedly the word is sometimes used in this way–what we might call the “sez me” sense–but that is not what the word means in Christian theology. There is, behind every single Christian dogma, a great mass of philosophical reasoning, textual analysis, and historical inquiry. All of this could be mistaken, but it is wrong to imply that dogmas are imposed by fiat. No doubt, ignorant Christian ministers have sometimes attempted to impose Christian dogmas by fiat, and this is one common reason intelligent young men flee the church.

        Christianity is, admittedly, sentimental at its extremities, but “not at its roots.” Sentimentalism is the stimulation or display of emotions for their own sake, and not as the natural and proper accompaniment of human experience. If I bring my wife some flowers and she bursts into tears of joy, that is sentimental and wrong. On the other hand, if she robotically places them in a vase and intones a monotonous thank you, that is inhuman and also wrong. At its roots Christianity says all men deserve damnation. It states this as a fact and without great wails of lamentation. Now, obviously, any normal man upon hearing this will feel a certain lowering of spirits. But, Christianity goes on to say, there is a way for men to get what they do not deserve. Once again, any normal man upon hearing this will feel a certain elation and, one would hope, gratitude. One doesn’t have to roll in the aisles, but this is, after all, like a pardon from the governor arriving at a cell on death row.

        I’m not sure what Commenter means by “spirituality,” but then, to be honest, I seldom know what anyone means by that term. If he means something like mystical experience, then he is right to say that most Christians have no experience of it. Nor do most lay Buddhists. This is something for the spiritual athletes among us. If he means something like triumph over the flesh, then he is right to say that most Christians have no experience of it. I think the Methodists talk about growing in holiness, but the rest of us expect to go on confessing our sins until the day we die.

      • “There is, behind every single Christian dogma, a great mass of philosophical reasoning, textual analysis, and historical inquiry.”

        This is exactly what I meant by “mental dogmatism”, Christianity is mostly based on the mental plane, by such “a great mass of philosophical reasoning, textual analysis, and historical inquiry”, it generally lacks the true spirituality, even if it originally was not so, and should not be so.

        “Sentimentalism is the stimulation or display of emotions for their own sake, and not as the natural and proper accompaniment of human experience. ”

        No, this is not what I meant by “sentimentalism”, “sentimentalism” is just a state of overflowing of human emotions, regardless of for what sake.

        “Now, obviously, any normal man upon hearing this will feel a certain lowering of spirits. But, Christianity goes on to say, there is a way for men to get what they do not deserve. Once again, any normal man upon hearing this will feel a certain elation and, one would hope, gratitude. One doesn’t have to roll in the aisles, but this is, after all, like a pardon from the governor arriving at a cell on death row.”

        All those things you mentioned above are in the mental and sentimental plane, they are the interplays of concepts and humanistic reactions, which does not touch the essentially spiritual/metaphysical plane at all.

        “If he means something like mystical experience, then he is right to say that most Christians have no experience of it.”

        Yes, this is exactly what I mean, mystical experience.

      • I think you are right, Christianity is not for you, at least right now. You are looking for something that is transcendental, non-creedal, and in good taste (no blubbering women in ghastly dresses). It sounds like you’re looking for yoga, or transcendental meditation, or something along those lines. I know many people who are very satisfied with that sort of spirituality, and even tried it myself at one time. I was a very unsatisfactory acolyte, but you may be different. I found that, in opening myself to the infinite, I had opened myself to things nasty as well as things nice. To use some old Christian terms and images, if you open your heart and post no “porter of the soul” (Janitor animae), there’s no telling what will wander in.

        I’ve been reflecting a good deal lately on this Janitor animae (a term that seems to have originated with St. Bernard). The Janitor animae or “porter of the soul” is a figure that expresses what doctrinal language knows as the “fear of God.” Here’s how one fellow described it in 1644: “it stands sentinel, and will tell of dangers that be approaching; but if it be removed, then the heart becomes a cage of unclean birds.” I learned something about that “cage of unclean birds” when I ventured into transcendental mysticism. Here’s another quote, from 1692. “As a nobleman’s porter stands at the door, and keeps out vagrants, so the fear of God stands and keeps out all sinful temptations from entering.” Alas, my heart, too, became a sort of doss house for smelly bums. The aroma of birds and bums has not been altogether expunged.

        Good luck with your quest, but watch the door!

      • “I found that, in opening myself to the infinite, I had opened myself to things nasty as well as things nice.”

        How was it?

      • As I wrote, it was rather a mixed bag. But I was young and may have been going about it all wrong. Mysticism attempts to penetrate to that which is hidden, and I found that some things that are hidden were hidden for a reason.

      • I think you are right, Christianity is not for you, at least right now.

        I guess that would be true for me couple of years ago. As commenter I also preferred experience to reason and thought transcendental experience is the highest. Only recently I realized that in spite of my pride still ruling over me I am helpless and hopeless depending only on my own limited strength.

        In my pursuit of mystical experiences I was tempted to use drugs but I have never done so. The fear of God, perhaps? On my own, I wasn’t very successful in achieving mystical experiences. Fortunately, I say today.

      • “Mysticism attempts to penetrate to that which is hidden, and I found that some things that are hidden were hidden for a reason.”

        For what I meant, it does not attempt to penetrate to that which is hidden, rather to directly see that which is.

      • “Only recently I realized that in spite of my pride still ruling over me I am helpless and hopeless depending only on my own limited strength.”

        Then what should you depend instead?

        Beneath that limited strength there is the limitlessness.

        “In my pursuit of mystical experiences I was tempted to use drugs but I have never done so.”

        I think that drugs still belong to that “limited” world and are a kind of “depending”, and at last they will make people even more “limited” and “depended”.

  14. “Ecstasy is from the contemplation of things vaster than the individual and imperfectly seen perhaps, by all those that still live.”
    ― W.B. Yeats

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