Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Liberalism versus Ultra-correctness in Christianity

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In one sense Christian salvation is very straightforward - and was made deliberately so by the atonement of Jesus Christ. That's what it means that Gospel means Good News - it really is good news.

But there is no formula for Christian life - extremes are corrupt, and the middle ground is slippery.

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So-called Liberal Christianity is by now very obviously not Christian, but rather an anti-Christian strategy, a highly successful fifth column within Christianity, eroding from within.

That shouldn't need emphasising, but it does - because nearly everybody (including all mainstream political parties) are now Left/ Liberal - and so is the modern state and its administration, and so are all large and powerful institutions.

So all successful and powerful people are Leftist/ Liberal to the extent that they participate in mainstream modern life - and therefore all powerful and prosperous Christians experience constant pressure on their Christianity to conform to Left/ Liberalism - and since Left/ Liberalism is foundationally secular, to yield to this pressure is to destroy Christianity at its root.

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But ultra-correctness is also a serious problem in Christianity.

The term comes from Fr Seraphim Rose, and he used it to refer to people whose focus on observable externals of Christianity became so total that a superficially detailed and exact observance of rules and rituals masked an anti-Christian, and indeed evil, pride: coldness and hatred in the heart.

Ultra-correctness would include many examples from all churches - especially the point-by-point 'legalism' which is a temptation to all - as if Christianity was primarily about enforcing obedience to regulations.

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So Liberalism and ultra-correctness are both anti-Christian; and also the reaction against Liberalism and ultra-correctness - strenuous and one-sided efforts to avoid the one or the other - can propel people to the opposite. So a reaction against the Liberalism of modern life may lead to ultra-correctness; and the reaction to ultra-correctness may lead to Liberalism - and both of these may lead (wittingly or unwittingly) out of Christianity...

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Why should these be a particular hazard in modern life - to the extent that it can seem impossible to hold the middle ground?

Part of it is, I think, a decline in intellectual life related to the rise of the Mass Media. People's attention spans are so brief that unreal extremism is almost inevitable - reality is divided into two alternative, neither of which is true or viable - but people are forced to choose between them in a snap decision (and if they do not choose, they will be allocated to one or the other).

So, for example, you are forced either to embrace the lethal lunacies of political correctness or be regarded as a racist and a hater. Or, in an ultra-correct church, to adopt an attitude of slavish and unquestioning mechanical obedience to all rules and doctrines, or be vilified and shunned as heretical, evil, and anti-Christian.

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Partly, this false dichotomy is a consequence of genuine flaws or weaknesses in mainstream classical theology which have been found-out, attacked and exploited by mainstream secular Leftism. For example, there is an apparent paradox or contradiction in the understanding of free will and choice, there is the problem of explaining the existence of evil and extreme suffering when God is supposed to be omnipotent, and there is the problem of supporting marriage and family and opposing the sexual revolution in a religion conceived in terms of individual souls and where marriage, family and sexuality are regarded merely as temporary this-worldly expedients. 

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Also, I think this false dichotomy of ultra-correctness versus Liberalism is a consequence of the significant decline in average intelligence among theologians, philosophers, theoreticians and the like. The problem is that people do not, and perhaps cannot, understand the religion they have inherited from previous generations.

On the one hand, Christianity has been made, and has evolved to be, over-complicated. The faith is supposed to be fully comprehensible to children and the simple minded - but was elaborated to become the province of an elite.

Now the elite don't understand it either!

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Liberalism and ultra-correctness are two responses to this incomprehension.

Liberalism has the attitude that: 'If I don't understand it, then it must be nonsense; so it should be replaced; and replaced with something better in-line-with what everybody knows is ethical and real'.

So, a dumb intellectual, whose attention span is eroded by the Mass Media, and who swims in a world of progressive sexuality - cannot understand why traditional marriage is necessary to Christianity, therefore feels able to redefine it at will - and in line with the notions current in today's media.

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Ultra-correctness also does not understand the real reasons for inherited theology, doctrine, rules and regulations  - but responds by a literal obedience to 'the letter of the law'.

So, a person may not understand the New Testament as a whole, but can understand it one sentence at a time, especially in a modern ('more scholarly') translation.

The ultra-correct may not understand the reason or purpose or motivation behind the list of dos and don'ts - but he can take each do, and each don't - and monitor the situation for compliance. Christianity is reduced to a rulebook on the whatsoever-is-not-forbidden-is-compulsory model - goodness is pride-fully equated to adherence to all of the rules all of the time; while sin = disobedience to the rules (mostly, doing prohibited things, but also to a lesser extent not doing mandatory things).

An ultra-correct Christian education is about ensuring compliance to rules - all or nothing, white or black: and beyond that is the void.

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My point is that Christianity cannot long survive (except as a mere pride-enforced shell of rules and rituals - which may come to mask evil intentions, hate-driven motivations and a rotten heart) if Christianity is not understood.

Or, Christianity - in its essence, its core, that which is necessary - cannot be more complex than the people who practice it.

(Except in the case of young children and the permanently dependent, who are intended to be subsumed under (loving) parental or other familial guidance.)

As the people who practice Christianity become simpler, so must the faith - or rather, Christianity IS simple - or rather: real Christianity is simple and if what we have is not simple then it is (so that extent) not real (or at least not necessary).

If something in Christianity is too complex to understand, or too complex to explain (given a willing learner); then that means that either it is not necessary (not essential), or that we have somehow got it wrong.

But in discarding that which is incomprehensible, we must not dissolve into mainstream secular Leftism; and we must not confuse genuine incomprehension with inattention, laziness, self-justification or any other fake reason for rejecting that about Christianity which is inconvenient.

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There is no formula for this! There is no 'safe' way to be a Christian: no rulebook, nor discarding the rulebook! No assured path to reform, no standard method of ensuring that hazards will be avoided.

There is always need for discernment - the ability to judge according to goodness: the evaluation of the heart.

If there is no discernment, then there will be apostasy - loss of faith, one way or another; but if there is discernment, then all else follows.

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Note added: Since I don't suppose many people reading this blog will be prone to Christian Liberalism, the main purpose of this post is warning against Ultra-correctness; and to emphasize that it is not a 'safe' path - either for an individual person, or for a church. There is no safe path. As soon as Christianity is reduced to any formula or algorithm or decision path; any set of clear, simple rules and regulations which can easily be 'implemented' by anybody - even if they are not themselves Christian - then Christianity evaporates - and is usually replaced with something extremely nasty. For example, when Secular Right Wingers and Reactionaries - who are not themselves Christian (but to all appearances seem to be motivated by pride, hate, resentment, hedonism and the urge to dominate and exploit) - try to influence Christians by approving or recommending policies, they almost-always urge Ultra-correctness (e.g. literal interpretation of specific Biblical verses; or a slavish attitude to Canon Law, or institutional hierarchy, or philosophical statements); partly because Ultra-correctness is all that the secular mind can understand about religion, but also because u-c can easily be incorporated-into their covertly-evil agendas.

3 comments:

agellius said...

I'm having a hard time grasping how it's possible to be "too correct".

What you mean probably is that some people are concerned about being doctrinally and liturgically correct, and fulfilling those requirements, to the exclusion of loving God and neighbor. I don't deny that there are people like this.

The problem is that the doctrine itself teaches you that you must love God and neighbor. So anyone who thought he could be saved through doctrinal and liturgical correctness while omitting charity, would be doctrinally incorrect; whereas those who understand doctrine correctly would know that charity and love of God may not be omitted.

Arakawa said...

@agellius

I don't think you're quite grasping the essence of *what* super-correctness is.

Maybe I'm not, either, but just recently I saw an Orthodox forum where people were asking questions to a priest that displayed a thorough unwillingness to literally think for themselves, not in the sense of questioning what should not be questioned, but in the sense of not wanting to exercise their free will in the slightest matter concerning how their faith applies in day-to-day life. Questions like "is it permissible to read the Gospel aloud to a friend, or should I only do it standing at attention before my icons? At what time of day is it best to read the Gospel? Is it permissible to pray for X? Is it permissible to pray for Y? With what words should I pray for Y? Can I pray while walking?" People seem to think that obedience to priest and doctrine means they no longer have to make a decision out of their free-will again; which is a tempting thought. Free will means the possibility of making mistakes. No free will, no more mistakes!

Super-correctness seems to be not a matter of insisting on correctness in doctrines, but insisting that doctrine should rigidly govern things which are, in proper doctrine, left up to the individual to decide according to their circumstances. There is, yes, the long-time experience of the Church on matters such as prayer, but it must be viewed in light of the fact that a person is a person, and God is a person, and how a person prays to God is therefore primarily a decision between them and God.

Once these kinds of overly rigid doctrinal restrictions have been multiplied, the other part of it then becomes an increasing suspicion towards other Christians; because, rather than evaluation of doctrinal matters, the primary thing noticed is that their practice on has diverged from one's own... on things that are more or less inessential. This is ultimately a contradiction to St. Paul's message that the one who eats herbs and the one who eats whatever thing should not despise one another.

So, basically, super-correctness (and in the other direction liberalism), can probably be thought of as distortions of the proper scope of doctrine, rather than its content.

Bookslinger said...

In response to:
"There is no formula for this! There is no 'safe' way to be a Christian: no rulebook, nor discarding the rulebook! No assured path to reform, no standard method of ensuring that hazards will be avoided.

There is always need for discernment - the ability to judge according to goodness: the evaluation of the heart.

If there is no discernment, then there will be apostasy - loss of faith, one way or another; but if there is discernment, then all else follows. "

What you call discernment, LDS might call the Light of Christ, or one's conscience. A slightly higher and necessary level of discernment is "The Gift of the Holy Ghost."

In LDS theology, everyone, LDS or not, has the Light of Christ/a conscience.

However, a benefit of baptized members is The Gift of the Holy Ghost, which is further light, or in other words the _right_ to receive personal revelation.

This "extra" thing came to the apostles and other followers _after_ Christ's ascension, and was amazingly transformative. I think it was in Acts where some converts were asked if they "received the Holy Ghost" and they responded that they had merely been baptized in the baptism of John, and some people were sent to baptize them in the name of Christ and lay hands on them for the gift of the Holy Ghost.