Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Locating the problem? - Don't do it!

I had one of those sudden recognitions the other day about how I had been wasting a lot of life over many years in trying to locate the source of problems - specifically the source of the mainstream of bad things the results of which we see everywhere but the source of which is so elusive. I have written many blog posts on this theme, and a couple of books.

But when something is so real yet so hard to pin down, the cause is likely to be spiritual rather than perceptual - its causes apparent to 'the imagination' (if at all)  - the imagination being our organ of perception of the spiritual - rather than to the five senses.

*

It is not that we cannot know such matters - probably we can in principle know almost anything (over time, across a vast timescale, with properly directed effort) - it is rather than the causes, once known cannot be pointed-at - and people (me too) are driven to wild abstractions in order to try and express insights.

We don't know the source, but the problem itself is (more or less) that metaphysical assumption of materialism, of denial of God, of spiritual factors being unreal... of focusing on the perceptual world and the goings-on in it as if they were the only things that exist or that matter. 

The civilization has turned away so decisively from the spiritual world that even among the people, groups, religions who make the most of not turning away; whatever they may say, we can see that they have turned away - and are actually in thrall to materialism, secularism, and the dominant ideology. This is one way of understanding why secular Leftism, political correctness, progressivism and their companions of statism and bureaucracy are so utterly dominant everywhere... in the New Age, the counter-culture, ultra-radicalism and nearly all people in nearly all religions (including Christianity). 

This is a much deeper matter than people making the wrong political choices - this is a flaw deep in our own souls - this is something which poisons each of us right inside.

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There is a world of meaning around us, we used to know this (as children, and in earlier eras) and a world of divine communications directed at us; and we are walled-off from it so completely that we are unaware of it and deny it in our lives even (perhaps especially) when we refer to it with our mouths - those few who become aware of it nearly always explain it away (delusions, hallucnations, imaginations, wishful thinkings or pathological dreads) and (by their behaviour and stance) trivialize it.

There is a selective blindness, deafness and general insensibility at work here. It goes further than ('mere') atheism - but poisons our ability to be religious in any way, or spiritual in any way - everything is reduced to lifestyle options and stimuli - including all spiritual discourse.

The extent to which this is the case is truly terrifying when glimpsed - there are vast and primary forces at work around us and in us, and yet we are (both as individuals and more so as cultures) almost entirely unaware of them; yet we perceive them, implicitly and in horribly distorted forms, in the tidal movements of our era.

*

Nobody has satisfactorily explained the insanity which emerged to general visibility in the later 1960s, apparently at a very specific time in between 1966 and 1968. Something happened, something good tried to get-out; and something went horribly wrong.

Everyone senses that there were some good and important impulses or insights buried in all that - but the outcome in terms of understanding and human behaviour has been appalling: people became dead-eyed sleepwalkers, zombies, cyborgs... cut-off from the primary currents of reality, and whose every effort to comprehend and transform and improve was poisoned at source by gross distortion of perspective based on gross insensibility.

All attempts to do something positive are poisoned at source - either by the mainstream distortion, or else by the distortion of denying the irreversible significance of these tidal forces of good which have emerged in such distorted ways.

We cannot, it seems, go back - because to go back requires denying the destiny of the underlying forces; but we (obviously!) cannot go forward in the ways that we are doing.  

*

Well, where it came from is not really the point - because it is now everywhere - I can feel it swirling in myself as I write, as if like a toxic fog!

This goes beyond cyclical theories of civilization - this is not part of a cycle, it has not happened before.

It goes beyond a mere failure to do what ought to be done (of course we fail, people always fail) - it is something new, this kind of blindness to what should be done and also to the fact that we are not doing it, and also to the fact that we are not trying to do it, and also to the fact that our attempts to make matters better are actually making them much worse.

*

So what then? What am I asking myself to do instead - what should I be striving for?

Two things: perception and clarity.

I need to perceive reality, including all the important 'spiritual' things which are there and active but excluded from awareness. And secondly I need clarity about these spiritual things - what is needed is not something passive, vague, dreamy, partially-glimpsed - nor something abstract, detached, observed; but instead an active, purpsive, willed, clear headed and fully-conscious and heart-felt kind of perception.

This is not easy to do, it is not clear how to do it, it is not obvious how to maintain this psychological-&-spiritual state once achieved - but that is what is required. It is what we are supposed to do, destined to do - indeed, it is something we ought to have done some time ago (generations ago); and it was our complete failure to do it, which is the ultimate source of the all-pervading problem. 

24 comments:

William Wildblood said...

I think this is one of your most perceptive posts, Bruce, and you’ve written a lot. There is a creeping paralysis of the imagination and corruption of the soul which afflicts those attracted to spiritual matters almost as much as those who reject them. That is why God is increasingly seen in the light of man as he is in this world rather than vice versa as should be the case. There is also a denial of the reality of sin except for those that are deemed to be offences against political correctness.

The remedy can only be through deep repentance but that is unlikely to happen without a suffering powerful enough to strip away the the falsehoods and illusions we have surrounded ourselves with.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - thanks for those comments.

Seeker said...

1. "... active, purposive, willed, clear headed and fully-conscious and heart-felt kind of perception."

2. "This is not easy to do, it is not clear how to do it, it is not obvious how to maintain this psychological-&-spiritual state once achieved ..."

No it is not easy to achieve. I'm looking for a way too. I cannot find it. I feel increasingly desperate, and I think that the desperation increasingly clouds the will and undermines purpose. I also feel that there is an active filth and darkness that is outwith humanity, which is always, always clamouring for entry into my soul, your soul, the multitude of souls to place a spot of rottenness within. It breathes despair and defeat, and it persuades us softly and persistently to accept, accept, accept.

BUT, I also think that when this feeling is almost overwhelming, it means that the dark is frightened, and is working hard because there is the force of good present attempting to stop it. Prayer is the answer:

"Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name"
"Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name"
"Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name"

Keep thinking it over an over and over until a peace and a stillness comes - and it will come. And keep looking and thinking and reaching for the light, and give yourself over to God's will and purpose, and into His keeping. Be His small child, and place your whole trust in Him.

Seeker

xxxx said...

Excellent post, Bruce, as usual. I would love to have the time to read all your posts and classify them by topic, making a coherent book that I could share, because the blogspot interface makes that insights are buried in older posts.

But I beg to disagree with that.

"Nobody has satisfactorily explained the insanity which emerged to general visibility in the later 1960s, apparently at a very specific time in between 1966 and 1968. Something happened, something good tried to get-out; and something went horribly wrong."

The rotten is deeper and older. The cult of modernity (I know that you don't want me to call it religion, but it is a suicide cult) starts in 1637, when Descartes publishes the "Discourse on the Method". This is the gospel of the new cult. Many thinkers have disagreed with Descartes but they have used his method. A philosopher has put it this way "modern thinking remains inside Cartesian coordinates".

The method? Having man as a starting point and discarding all the things whose removal doesn't cause an instant collapse of the system. The substractive method. Does this seem familiar to you? Well, it happens that this is an insight of yours.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2010/06/malignancy-of-radical-doubt.html

These are the rules of the game. Descartes is the Moses of this new cult and broke with previous thinking, which had a different epistemology. Later prophets (Marx, Smith, Gramsci, etc) played the game with the rules Descartes defined. The results are what I call "the modernity cult".

What happened during the 60s is that modernity cult (which was formerly confined to the elites) reached the masses, which were formerly Christian. These brought this psychotic ideology to a new level. After that, things accelerated and the insanity reached new lows.

But the 60s are only when the cancer gets visible. The cancer has been stealthily growing for a longtime.

Of course, behind all this, there are spiritual powers and I guess one can do worse than quoting Baudelaire: "The devil's finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.". All the rest is commentary.

Bruce Charlton said...

@xxxx - In my book Thought Prison I located the beginning of modernity with the Great Schism around 1000 AD - but it's a silly game really, this chasing the origins - and a distraction from what needs to be done.

xxxx said...

Well, I would locate the beginning in the nominalist philosophy, which eventually begat the Enlightenment. But I agree this is not the important thing. It's like discussing about the sex of the angels while the Turks are at the gates of Constantinople.

The important thing is described in the Parable of the Prodigal Son: going back to the Father. This applies both to individuals and to societies. This is why your post hits the mark.

(Of course, I have changed my nick but only because there is no Name/URL option anymore, so I don't know why Google Account gives me this new name).

David Balfour said...

"Imagine that you open your eyes in a dark bedroom. You know it is morning outside, because you can see the cracks of light at the edge of the heavy curtains; it looks like a cold, grey light, and you suspect it is raining. You think of the things you have to do when you get up, and they all seem dreary.

Finally you yawn, cross to the window, and draw the curtains.
  
Sunlight streams in, marvellously warm!  

You open the window, and the air smells warm and fresh. The feeling of dreariness vanishes. It is replaced by an eager desire to get your breakfast and get outside. 

A moment before, your consciousness has been 'hanging back', like a dog that doesn't want to go outside on a cold day. Now it is straining at the lead, pulling you forward." 

Perhaps the God's eye view is necessary to alleviate the malaise of:

"Well, where it came from is not really the point - because it is now everywhere - I can feel it swirling in myself as I write, as if like a toxic fog!"

In the fullness of time Good will triumph over evil, God will deliver his promise of salvation (to those who want it) and what we are going through now is just a spiritual growing pain, a very painful one, but we must set our hearts on the promise of joy, repent our sins and be the change we want to see in the world (imperfectly yes but we must strive for high ideals) and cultivate the growth/change in consciousness necessary to reach out towards the divine integrity. We are floundering but must not despair.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David

Yes indeed. My main worry is that parenthesis 'to those who want it' - because so many people *seem* not to want it, seem to have been deeply-duped into denying its reality and also desirability - like a heroin addict may come to deny that there is anything at all wrong with his life except the difficulty of getting hold of enough heroin.

BTW - did you see this?

http://www.jrganymede.com/2016/03/23/the-peaks-and-valleys-of-christian-life/

Seeker said...



Dr Charlton: "My main worry is that parenthesis 'to those who want it' - because so many people *seem* not to want it, seem to have been deeply-duped into denying its reality and also desirability..."

"deeply-duped" - exactly, and if we can see that people have been deeply-duped (I like that - wish I'd thought of it), then God can too. And I'm certain He takes all that into account. Even the dupers will not be judged and found wanting, so long as their dupery was innocent. By innocent, I mean that they were duped, and passed on the dupery, believing in it absolutely as a good and correct thing. Those who dupe others when they know the truth, now those are the people who have cause to worry.

I know lots of people who believe there is no God, but who live lives like Christians. I think we all know them. They are effectively Christian, but they don't know it. Yes, they've been duped into non-belief on the surface, but within, somehow, they know the truth. It may be buried beneath layers of conditioning, but that is nothing to God. I think He knows His own, even if they don't acknowledge His existence at the conscious level.

Imagine this:

A Father is told by His small, angry child, "I'm leaving home, I'm packing my case, and I don't need you (stamp of small foot)".

Father rolls his eyes, smiles to himself, and whilst junior marches off down the path, he starts to prepare junior's favourite dinner.

That I think is how God will see and treat the innocent duped.

Seeker

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seeker - I suppose so - but I actually don't know many people who lead Christian lives, nor do I know many innocent people who are duped. The situation is, on the whole, very bad I think.

Seeker said...

Dr Charlton: I think that your definition of a Christian life may well be too tightly drawn. I think that the Christian life is lived by many people still, even when they do not profess God. That they all sin is absolutely true, but they are decent, well intentioned people who attempt to live in a way that they see as good, and that I would call essentially Christian.

They are characterised by the following aspects. They often yearn for something greater than themselves, recognising that they are missing something. They feel they can do nothing to help themselves, and they have been duped into thinking there is nothing to be done about it. Yet, these same people still try to live what they think is a good life. They know and feel love because they care very much for their families and for their friends - this is central to Christ's teaching. They mourn dreadfully when a loved one dies. Many of them are mild and gentle, and do not think of themselves as better than other people. They try to be good, kind and merciful to others without hypocrisy or guile. They try to be transparent, and not do a mean thing. They will strive to make peace between people, and are hurt and worried when it cannot be achieved. Unpleasant people see these qualities as weakness, and those who display them are often bullied or derided, but these good people carry on behaving as before.

My parents are like this. My friends are too. Many people in my village are the same. They don't go to Church. They don't believe in God (at a conscious level), but they live in the way I have described above. To me, they are Christians, and are part of God's great, unacknowledged (to themselves) children. You can bet that He acknowledges them, perhaps with an indulgent roll of the divine eyes, whilst the devil looks on livid, knowing he cannot touch these people.

God is good, and it is one of those times when I feel really strongly that my reasoning is correct.

Seeker







Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seeker- They are not Christians because they do not repent their sins - and this because they deny that their sins are sins. Being 'good' has nothing to do with it.

Seeker said...

Ah, but I think that people who are like this do repent their sins - not consciously to God, but their in-built moralometer (piece of Holy Spirit) fills them with first, guilt, then remorse, and the desire to make things right. They know when they have sinned:

- When they don't feel love.
- When they are angry and rough.
- When they feel superior.
- When they are unkind andjudgmental when they hypocritically do the same thing themselves.
- When they hide their mean minded motives.
- When they foment trouble between people for fun or gain.

When their moralometer kicks in, and their guilt, remorse and attempt to make things right is seen and recognised by God, He accepts it as proof of their saved status.

These people are in a similar place to those described by Screwtape to Wormwood. I forget the exact quote, but it is along the lines of - He even forgives those who sin if they sincerely thought that they were doing right.

If Lewis was right about that (and I think he was), I cannot see God condemning those who say they don't believe in Him, when they behave exactly as a sinning Christian does. Being good has a lot to do with it - good behaviour in the way outlined in my previous post is the sort of behaviour described by Christ as good. Good behaviour of this sort is, I think, an outward manifestation of faith, and I think that God's grace is unlimited and he recognises His own, even amongst the people who call themselves atheist or agnostic. They try hard to be good, live like Christians, and He forgives them because their behaviour is not Christ denying. They are innocent dupes.

Seeker

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seeker - I don't understand your point. None of this makes any difference.

There is more unrepented sin - indeed advocacy of sin as good, promotion and eve copulsory sinning - and condemning of good as evil - *now*, in The West, than probably at any time or place in history.

Most of these unrepentant/ advocated sins are in the sexual arena.

And the mass of people are not innocent - because this kind of knowledge is built-into us.

These are the facts - there i no point in disputing them - the point is what to do about this creeping paralysis, this zombie sleepwalker state.

Nicholas Fulford said...

I think people sought purpose in the late 1960's. They thought that there was some chance that they could change the world for the better - for a little while. And then that very innocent expression for peace became thwarted, corrupted and squelched by the desire for sensation, highs, wealth, and a plethora of other things which sapped the life out of a near pure impulse. We became "the boomers", the most materialistic generation of people to ever exist.

Today's decadence is related but different, like a refrain, but with much more at stake. In the digital age many live in truncated dwarvish worlds that bear little resemblance to the real world. When I go for my annual wilderness hike for 7 or more days, I become reacquainted with the real world again. Mistakes have consequences, and I am made aware of that within the first 48 hours. Nature speaks, and in that setting without the distractions of modern life I find myself returned to a more immediate and visceral awareness of my connection to the universe which I am often made unaware by the trance of being a sleepwalker in my daily life of routine and habit.

Man lives with simulacra and simulations, and treats them as though they were real. And like Plato's men transfixed by the shadows on a cave wall, we have our modern equivalents. And we lose the very essence of what life is by being so transfixed.

David Balfour said...

"They are not Christians because they do not repent their sins - and this because they deny that their sins are sins. Being 'good' has nothing to do with it."

I find this statement painfully anxiety provoking and feel like I have sympathy for seekers point. It makes me wonder what exactly repentance is and how one can be sure that they are 'doing it right'? I think this is a key point that needs to be drilled down on to clarify what it is you are fearful and what needs to be done by myself and everyone else.

Which sins are you referring to? The kind of person seeker seemed to be describing sounded like someone not so much *deliberately denying* that their sins are sins but someone who failed to recognise their sins as sins. A subtle but important distinction surely in the way you are portraying the requirement for salvation. Is being 'agnostic' or to not *know* the reality of the existence of God, a sin? I am starting to feel that either hair - splitting is afoot here or my understanding of how things are and what Christianity is is incorrect in some fundamental way.

My current understanding based on my contact with the LDS church is that at our deaths we will come into the presence of God unequivocally (it will be known we are dead and have survived leaving our bodies and we will experience a reality which for many is the main stumbling block to faith and by extension repentance - a lived personal experience of the afterlife) and be presented with an understanding that the gospel is true and Jesus Christ is our saviour and at this time we can chose to accept or reject the gospel in full. My expectation is therefore that most secular people at this point would be delighted to accept the truth they had denied in error.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nicholas - Yes. But I think the main thing about the late 60s impulse was less the 'better world' part than that there was a kind of upwelling of spiritual impulse. It immediately became horribly distorted and harmful - but it was there nad was very widespread. (The same spirit was evident earlier, of course, among a much smaller group - for example the Beats of the 1950s). I do not think there has been another spiritual upwelling since that time - fifty years ago.

I note the reorirntated effect of your contact with nature - it is indeed powerful. But, sadly, this kind of thing is very soon overwhelmed by contact with modern life (in my experience, anyway) - so tha tpeople who live in contact with nature are often disppointingly modern and corrupt in their attitudes.

I suppose that this is because immersive contact with nature is Barfield's Original Participation, cotrasted with eth alienation and isolation of modernity - when what we really need is to go forward to Final Participation; which would presumably be more robust if we could achieve it.

David Balfour said...

I wonder if an anology might help here. Are you saying something like the following Bruce: God knows what sin is perfectly and that it is spiritually harmful and perilous. Some people who know this and understand enough to repent go to him for paternal support and protection, a bit like a child who trusts to hold a parents hand when crossing the road. The other child (perhaps someone in the currently debated grey area of having understood the nature of sin and the correct response) says to their father "it's ok, look, you're being overprotective, I don't need to hold your hand. I am doing fine alone." and then along comes a car and knocks them down and kills them when they foolishly put themselves in harms way, do not recognise the full danger, and step into the road alone.

I find analogies make things a lot easier for me to understand and clarify things. Perhaps this will help us correct the misunderstandings here about what you are saying.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Your misunderstanding is based on pride - you don't want to acknowledge how bad you really are, and how bad everybody around you is: *objectively*, from a Christian perspective.

(This is not about being good or nice - Christ came to save sinners: publicans and prostitutes and tax collectors - he reserved his criticisms for the 'good people' whose pride was such they would not repent - the professors, NGO executives, social workers, journalists, bishops etc.)

The pervasive evil is precisely that we do not repent - and indeed official propaganda is that there is nothing to repent, because we live beyond good and evil, after the transvaluation of all values (to quote Nietzsche).

Indeed, rather than repent we are taught to feel proud of our sins - talk and write about them expecting, and getting, admiration and reward - and never identifying them as sins: that it was *objectively* wrong.

(To acknowledge that we have hurt people by our actions, or been unkind, means nothing without such repentance.)

For a Christian, the badness is not a reason for despair - because we know an instant and infinite and universally-available solution - repentance. Christianity is about repentance - and to repent needs acknowledgement of sin. All sins - not just the sins that our society recognizes; and all sins, great and small.

(To cling to even a small and minor sin, i.e. not to acknowledge it as a sin, is sufficient to make us want to reject salvation - it is indeed to reject God's whole plan.)

It is Good Friday - this commemorates the day Christ died so that repentance was effectual - it is all that we need to be saved - but it is essential.

David said...

Hmm... you certainly don't mix your words Bruce and you have given it to me 'straight up' as usual! I have been preoccupied with this post and this resultant thread all day and you have struck a nerve. At first I was anxious and even a little angry and irritated to have been 'shot down' with your statement that 'my misunderstanding is based on pride' Ouch! but then what better evidence is there for pride in action then when it is hurt. I am a flawed man. I am a sinner and I can habitually make excuses for my behaviour and that of others. You are right to say that perhaps I do not want to acknowledge the extent of the badness in both myself and other people. I try and acknowledge my sins when I can but I would still argue that sometimes we have blind spots and do not see or notice certain sins. This awareness, I would argue, is something that comes from experience and wisdom; like tending a garden of the spirit to weed out the correct plants whilst allowing the virtuous ones to grow. I think that 'the tao' or compass you mention is something that needs to be first of all identified and then used correctly (the compass of discernment perhaps). One does wonder though whether a child raised as a cannibal by cannibals can be blamed for their predilection for eating human flesh? Which is ultimately the situation that many of us find ourselves in, in the modern world, we are born into a sinful world and it will pollute us even if we begin our lives as 'innocents' rather than as 'being born with sin.' which some would argue. I do wonder though why we are so prone to sin and not goodness therefore.

I agree we must repent our sins and I believe that Jesus created a way to make the repentance of sin effective. I have no idea how that *works* but I trust that it does somehow like a reclaimed childhood belief in magic! As far as I understand repentance means that we make a change of heart and feel appropriately remorseful depending on the gravity of the sin. I can accept that but I do sometimes wonder whether I am 'doing the repenting correctly' and what is in my blind spot or what is not something to get too worried about and can be treated with less intensity of concern.

David said...

But living in the modern world makes hypocrites of us all. You say that "To cling to even a small and minor sin, i.e. not to acknowledge it as a sin, is sufficient to make us want to reject salvation - it is indeed to reject God's whole plan."

This concerns me. We seem all to be doing this all the time, in ways we are both aware of and some ways we are perhaps still unaware, as we awaken spiritually, and even the self-proclaimed Christians cannot agree what the little sins so I can't really see that we all 'just know.' That isn't my experience at all. Catholics and protestants drink alcohol, tea or coffee. LDS members don't. If they are 'sins' then according to your reasoning an indulgence in these 'small sins' could make Catholics or Protestants reject salvation. It starts to feel absurd when we get to the minutiae of following the chain of reasoning...either hell must be full of tea drinkers or afternoon tea and ale houses, that many a fine Christian were fond of in life, are banned in heaven. This all seems so legalistically absurd. I assume therefore repentance of some things are compulsory or necessary (such as a belief in God to begin with, then a belief in a divine plan and then the desire to follow Christ) otherwise we can't reasonably participate in the divine plan...but a cup of tea or a relaxing evening in a pub drinking a few beers with friends? Do I need to fear hell over a cup of warm tea or repent the desire for a cold beer on a hot summers day? If the 'small sin' logic applies as you say then I really don't know I can have time to do anything else expect repent for everything almost constantly including a desire for a drink or my eyes lingering for too long on an attractive woman in a magazine or on a poster. I am afraid I will need to be locked away for my own safety! There are just too many things to repent and I am so fearful about what I should repent this risks tipping into despair, which is another sin, and I feel like a thoroughly wretched beast, which doesn't seem like a healthy attitude to myself or the world. I use humor here but only to make a point. If what Willian Arkle advocates is true, which seems like the most warm and joyous approach to Christianity I have read recently (Again, does he qualify as a Christian? He seems like a good man but he doesn't seem to acknowledge a belief in reincarnation as a heretical or sinful point of view. He even states explicitly in hi writing and Wessex group audio lecture that he does not wish to be dogmatic to other people about his beliefs about divinity) then the spirit of playfulness, creativity and light-heartedness is more important than legalism about defining and repenting the small sins, it seems more about the overall plan of a creator to make friends not obedient and docile subjects who don't qualify for the rewards of eternity if they drink tea. I'm not trying to be deliberately obstreperous here I'm just trying to figure out how to strike the balance so that I don't need to feel hang-dog every day over my inevitable and many obvious short-comings. Doesn't William Arkle also say that God wants individual friends and not perfect clones who never put a foot wrong? I am still trying to evaluate these things. That is what we came here to do and to learn. This is where I am at for now at any rate...Have a Good Easter and please be gentle with your replies :-)

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - First, I don't think the WOrd of Wisdom rules are meant to be about sins - they are instructions for how to live for church members who aspire to be Temple worthy, to hold positions of church authority and so forth - therefore they are very important, theyy wre evidence of a necessary degree of self-control and discipline etc, they have value in themselves - - but they are not about damnation. Nor are they necessarily assumed to be permanent, like some doctrines. They seem arbitrary and excessive, perhaps - but they have served the church very well over seven generations - sometimes in ways that would have been unenvisaged at the time they were devised.

(I should clarify that I do not personally live by these rules - but I acknowledge their validity and that the CJCLDS is indeed wise to have them.)

Secondly, and most imprortantly, repentance is objective. Since the power and scope of repentance was established by the death of Christ, and that it affects all Men past, present and future - we can assume that it was a *cosmic* event: it changed the structure of reality. So repentance is not about our feelings. It is ultimately about our desire to accept Christ's gift and to join God's plan for our salvation and happiness, and to accept the necessary constraints for this to happen.

Thus repentance is a whole-istic thing, we repent everything when we accept Christ's gift and choose to dwell in Heaven - it is only the failure to repent which is particular and specific. When we have died it will be made clear to us what are sins, and our practice of repentance during this life is to preserve and strengthen our true selves such that we will not cling to any sin at that time.

The reason we are well advised to repent our sins whenever they come to our attention is that the opposite is the problem - denial of sins; attacking virtue, beauty and truth; teaching sins as virtues. There is no neutral ground or middle ground when it comes to sins - as we see all around us.

This is very clarifying - because when we are not sure whether something is a sin or not, we only have to imagine, or live for a while on that basis, that it is a virtue - and therefore something to be promoted and its opposite to be persecuted --- and we will soon realize which is the sin and which isn't.

Now, it seems to me that not many people would be foolish enough to reject salvation when offered, and when we know what the sins are for sure - but on the other hand it certainly looks as if increasing nubers of people would do this as they are in mortal life, and that they are hardening themselves in sin (and rejecting virtue), year by year - asif to make absolutely sure that they will not be tempted accept salvation when offered.

So repentance is more about conviction than emotion. It is, in a way, the opposite of regret - although there is a confusion about this. Somebody may not be able to feel regret about their sins - because they cannot compel their emotions - nonethless they may repent as fully as they might swear allegiance to their monarch, or swear to tell the truth in court, or make a marriage vow.

Is that any use?

David Balfour said...

It does Bruce. Thanks for humouring me! I enjoy these little chats and I feel as though I learn a great deal all the time. Like you, perhaps, my sunny optimism that 'it will all turn out ok in the end' is sometimes punctured when I realise how rotten the world is and the horrid things people are doing with the great gift of life. The thought that so many beautiful souls with such potential will sleep walk into oblivion and not notice or take the gift of eternal life Jesus had prepared for them is very upsetting, especially when one considers 'good' (as good as I am or better) friends and loved ones that might not take the hand being offered because they don't think it's real. I will keep praying and doing as much as I can; keeping as open as possible to any divine guidance I can discern. I am on board but more needs to be done by Christians. We need to be brave and steadfast even if we do have coffee breaks. It sometimes feels like modern Christianity is like the council of Yorkshire magicians debating the reasons why magic has stopped or if it ever existed at all. Christians need to live by their beliefs and values to bring a bit of magic back to this sad fallen world.

David Balfour said...

"It is ultimately about our desire to accept Christ's gift and to join God's plan for our salvation and happiness, and to accept the necessary constraints for this to happen."

I think I know many current atheists or agnostics that I believe, fairly confidently, would gladly repent once their default 'wishful thinking' skepticism has been overturned by a post - mortal experience of the divine.
They give all the indications that they would love to believe in God and participate in God's divine plan but they cannot quite bring themselves to cross the line (the Terry Pratchett ' s and William James' of this world perhaps). The hope of post - death conversion is a real source of hope for me when I see the spiritual inertia or denial in other 'good' peoples lives.

The other group of non - believers that are far more concerning are as you say those that have hardened their hearts to the spiritual possibilities of the divine or who actively embrace evil as good. This large group is a bigger worry to me but if my understanding of God is correct he will not compel a soul to do what it doesn't want and so they will be allowed to have what they want even if it is an unwise choice that will not bring them the eternal joy (almost certainly eternal misery) that God's divine plan offers mankind.