This essay follows a previous one on the relation of education to faith; it is the second of three essays intended to critique the prevailing modern worldview of the West’s ubiquitous liberal regime by demonstrating the narrowness and insipidity of liberal views. I argued in “The Structure of Education is the Structure of Faith” in favor of several pre-modern ways of viewing education. I rehearse that gesture again, this time in respect of the prevailing modern sense of the encompassing reality in the context of which people must live their lives. A third essay, following this one, will deal with memory considered as an institution.
From Juan Donoso Cortes’ Essay on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism:
Reason, which revolts against the transmission of sin or of penalty, yet receives what is transmitted to us without repugnance, notwithstanding the sorrow which accompanies it, if in place of being designated as sin and penalty it is called inevitable misfortune. It is not, however, difficult clearly to prove that this misfortune could not be changed into happiness, except with the condition of its being a penalty, from which we necessarily conclude that the rationalistic solution in its definitive results is less acceptable than the Catholic solution.
If our actual depravity is only a physical and necessary effect of the primitive corruption, and the effect must last so long as the cause remains, it is evident that since there is no means whatever of removing the cause, neither can there be any by which the effect may be prevented.
…For it is worthy of remark, and in opposition to what at first sight would appear, that it is not justice but mercy which is especially conspicuous in that solemn condemnation which immediately followed the commission of sin. If God had refrained from intervening with this condemnation when this tremendous catastrophe occurred, if when He saw man separated from Him He had withdrawn Himself from man, and entering into the tranquility of His repose had no longer vouchsafed to think of man, or, to express all in one word, if God in place of condemning man had abandoned him to the inevitable consequences of his voluntary disunion and separation, then the fall of man would have been hopeless, and his perdition certain. But in order that this disaster might be repaired, it became necessary for God to draw near to man in another way, uniting Himself to him anew, though imperfectly, by the ties of mercy. Punishment was the new bond of union between the Creator and the creature, and in it mercy and justice were mysteriously joined, mercy being the connecting link, and justice vindicated in the penalty assigned.
If we cease to view suffering and sorrow in the light of a penalty, we not only deprive them of their power to reunite the Creator and the creature, but we also destroy their expiatory and purifying effect on man. If grief is not a penalty, it is an unmitigated evil; if it is a penalty, it still remains an evil through its origin, sin; but it is also a great good, on account of its freeing from the defilement of sin. The universality of sin renders necessary the universality of purification, in order that all mankind may be cleansed in its mysterious waters.
…Regard the Earth throughout its length and breadth, consider all that surrounds you, annihilate space and time, and you will find among the abodes of men only what you here behold–a grief without intermission, and a lamentation which never ceases. But this grief freely accepted is the measure of all greatness; for there can be no greatness without sacrifice, and sacrifice is only grief voluntarily accepted. The world calls those persons heroic who, transpierced with a sword of grief, freely accept their suffering. The Church calls holy those who accept every grief, both the the spirit and of the flesh…
Mankind has unanimously recognized a sanctifying virtue in grief. This is why, though the ages, in every zone, man has rendered homage and worship to great misfortune. Oedipus is greater in the day of his calamity than in the days of his glory…
Psalms 42. Quemadmodum.
- LIKE as the hart desireth the water-brooks, * so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
- My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: * when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
- My tears have been my meat day and night, * while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God? …
Christmas Tree; Burning Bush; Tree of Life; Yggdrasil; Menorah, Tree of Lights; Pillar of Cloud & Fire; Chariot Throne (wheels in wheels); Sun of Righteousness; Heavenly Host; Cosmos (host in order of battle); Sabaoth; Jacob’s Ladder; Rainbow Bridge: Milky Way; Gate of Heaven; Vine; Flowering Rod of Aaron; Root of Jesse (“Yah Is”); Tropaeum; Faithful Cross; one and only Noble Tree. All are types of the manner of our Lord’s descent and manifestation to us, of his creation, preservation, and blessing of all this our life; of his Incarnation and Passion, his Redemption of his world, of his Resurrection, and his Ascent.
Our staunch Mormon commenter Leo rightly points out that,
… apart from revelation and experience [reason must] be humble. The Book of Job is full of arguments back and forth, quite impressive ones, and the conclusion of the book suggests humility before God regardless of how tight one’s argument might look. The world’s philosophical schools are hardly in agreement, and a recent study suggests 62% of philosophers are non-believers. Many of them would argue against all religion by the light of their reason.
That this is all true is fairly obvious. And we would do well to remember it; I, in particular, should bear it ever in mind, I know (all too well, as I grope forward – I hope it is forward – through the darkness, knees skinned and toes stubbed on this scandal and that). Reason ought to be humble; reason would be the first to insist upon it. That reason should be humble is only reasonable; the notion is an issue and product of reason. Therein lies a clue.
Why does God allow evil? You are asking for a reason for evil, but evil is by definition that which has no reason. It is the absence of what should be there. God cannot have a reason for it. It cannot be good that evil be. It cannot be that good relies in any necessary way on evil. That would mean that good isn’t entirely good and can’t be self-subsistent; it means that God, Who is Subsistent Goodness, doesn’t exist. If you think you have thought of a good reason for God to put sin in the world, repent and put such wicked thoughts aside. It is not better that Satan fell and Adam sinned.
A.morphous, the Orthosphere’s cantankerous (and useful) Chief Antagonist, and a stout atheist, recently argued that if man had not Fallen, corrupting our nature, Christ would never have redeemed us, and there would be no such thing as Christianity.
It’s absolutely true, and there is no Christian who would deny it. If we had not Fallen, we would not need redemption, nor for that matter would we need religion.
But then, a.morphous also said that, “… it is the serpent that made us fully human.” This is not quite right. True, the lure Lucifer proffered made us the sort of human we are today; but that sort is less than fully human. It is Christ who makes us again fully human, and more.
It is in that “more” that we find the justification for our gratitude for the Fall.
Gratitude? Yes, indeed; for, as Orthospherean Dr. Bill then pointed out to a.morphous, his point is standard Christian doctrine: at the Easter Vigil in Roman, Lutheran and Anglican churches, a deacon sings in the ancient Exsultet:
O certe necessárium Adæ peccatum … O felix culpa …
O truly necessary sin of Adam … O happy fault …
Standard doctrine this may be, but it is somewhat shocking nonetheless. How could the tragedy of the Fall be an occasion of happiness, rather than grief? What is much more, how could it have been necessary?
A proposition that cannot be carried into practice at all cannot be true. An act that cannot be implemented in actuality must be somehow incoherent: self-refuting – for example, you can’t mean it when you say, “this statement is a lie” – or a contradiction in terms either simple or implicit – e.g., there’s just no way to implement “2 + 3 = 4,” for it is a contradiction in terms. That such propositions can’t work logically means that they can’t work in practice.
But a proposition that can be carried into practice might be true. E.g., “It is best not to defer gratification.”
When we sin, we assert one or more of a number of propositions:
- God does not exist.
- God is not omniscient.
- God is amoral.
- The world is amoral.
- God does not care whether I behave well or not, nor does the world.
- Whether or not God cares about my behavior does not matter (to me, at least).
And so forth. When we misbehave, we effectually attest to our belief in at least one of these propositions, or else in one of a number of other propositions like them. And to attest belief in propositions is to testify to their truth, and so is to urge their truth: behavior is an effectual proposal for how it might be well to behave.
Son: Daddy? Where do cats come from?
Father: They come from other cats.
Son: But where do all cats come from?
Father: Well, they come from the rest of the world. Things kept happening in the world, and then one day, with all those things happening, cats happened, too.
Son: Where do things come from? They had to come from somewhere, right?
Father: Maybe they were always there. Maybe there have just always been things.
Son: But why are there always things?
Father: Maybe it’s impossible for there to be nothing.
Son: So there has to be something.
The Islamic and the liberal views of Jesus and of the New Testament are formally the same.
According to liberalism, Jesus was just a man, not God, who never claimed to atone for men’s sins or determine their eternal destiny, who taught liberal doctrines, and who remained dead after he died on the Cross.
According to Islam, Jesus was just a man, not God, who never claimed to atone for men’s sins or determine their eternal destiny, who taught Islamic doctrines, and who remained dead after he died of natural causes.
[Correction: The majority Islamic view of Jesus’s end of days on Earth is that he was transported to Heaven. But the Islamic view is still very close to the liberal view.]
According to liberalism, the New Testament contains many errors that have developed over the centuries, due partly to malice and partly to entropy, and we must look to scholarship to set the record straight.
According to Islam, the New Testament contains many errors that have developed over the centuries, due partly to malice and partly to entropy, and we must look to Islam to set the record straight. Moslem anti-Christian apologists according quote liberally from liberal scholars such as Bart Ehrman in attacking the New Testament.
Reason number 5,347 why liberalism is assaulting our culture.