Saturday, 30 September 2017

What is (mainly) wrong with (real) Christians? How do they need to change?

It would be better - indeed it is ultimately necessary - that people become real Christians; but in the modern world, nearly all real Christians are fundamentally (i.e. deeply) terribly deficient and defective.

And I am not talking about failing to live-up to ideals of Christian morality - I mean that their whole way of thinking and being is anti-Christian, contradicts Christianity.

In sum, modern Christians believe as Christians, but think as materialist atheists.


Indeed, much of the problem is exactly this disconnection between believing and thinking - Christians 'believe' all sorts of things - but their actual living at the level of thinking is all-but unaffected by those beliefs. I don't just mean that Christian thinking fails to match up to Christian beliefs, but that their beliefs don't affect their thinking At All.

The awareness of this problem is typically unarticulated - the grumbling unease and dissatisfaction that Christians feel about not becoming a New Person; the way that the world around and other people seem unreal and meaningless - a mere shadow play. Their inability to know what is really going-on, and what they ought to do about it...


Leftism

Why are so many modern Christians Leftists?

Many are quite extreme Leftists; but nearly all are adherents and supporters of mainstream politics of one sort or another, accepting the secular ideas of what is significant and important (e.g. The News shapes their Christian agenda).

And all mainstream politics is Leftist (everything in public discourse, in official communications and the the mass media - including all the conservative, nationalist, supposedly 'Right' wing groups and parties - all are fundamentally secular-materialist in ideology and thought-structures).

Yet Leftism is literally demonic; a systematically and strategically anti-Christian ideology - purposively destructive of The Good.

How is it that Christians cannot just see that, know that? Something is terribly wrong...


Dishonesty

Why are so many Christians so deeply dishonest in their work? And why can't they perceive this?

Modern work demands systematic dishonesty - especially at the managerial level. Surely this is obvious? - yet many Christians occupy leadership and managerial roles, which they occupy because they are good-at dishonesty, and where they are dishonest for a living; and there is no sign they feel they have anything to repent.

Christians are too ready to excuse-themselves on grounds of pragmatism, and to try and distinguish in their actions between a stark made-up lie (regarded as bad) and the deniable deliberate misleading of others (regarded as part of life...) - when in fact the deniable misleading of others, often pursued through many stages and levels of organisation, is a far worse (because more calculated) sin than is making-stuff-up on the spur of the moment.

The problem, as usual, is not the sinning, but the making of excuses to oneself and others - it is the failure to repent, because the sin has been reframed as necessary, hence 'actually good' (in an inverted way)...

In sum, to be dishonest and deny it is literally to do the work of the devil - and to do it systematically and strategically. This is a measure of the extreme spiritual hazard of the dishonesty of modern Christians


Bureaucracy

The modern world is bureaucratic, and bureaucracy is totalitarian, and bureaucracy is death.

Yet modern Christians are bureaucratic - they believe-in bureaucracy as the best and proper way to do things - from government down to the local jumble sale. Their churches are bureaucratic - everywhere and in all things is the implicit assumption is that the organisation is right, the group is right, committees are right, the vote is right...

All this is obviously and profoundly anti-Christian (because Christianity is rooted in individual agency, and only individuals can be moral or know The Good) - and yet Christians cannot see it!


Nihilists

Modern Christians - even the real Christians - regard the world reductionistically, materialistically, as positivists.

Events are seen as either mechanically caused or else random - even one's own thoughts are thus seen; the world of the modern Christian is drained of meaning at the finest and most exact level of analysis.

They theoretically-believe that the world is God's creation, but in their moment-by moment thoughts they regard the world just as described by 'science' (maybe sometimes externally-shaped by God).

In sum, modern Christians think as nihilists - actual-believers in nothing, deniers of the reality of the real. They do not see the world as alive and full of purpose, and they do not even want-to - they don't think this is important. They think the only thing important is what they believe, what they profess, how they live by the rules.

And the fact that everything around them and within-them is - in practice - regarded as unconscious, dead and pointless is (if thought-about at all) regarded as a sign of progress in Christianity, an escape from superstition; and indeed a positive good since it avoids the deceptive and demonic hazards of 'spirituality'.


Literalism

In sum, modern real Christians are deadly-literal, superficial, fearful - and wrong.

Their literalism shows in how they regard themselves as mechanical effect; agency merely as a craving to be externally-controlled and compelled by rules, bureaucracies, drilled-in habits of behaviour. They are superficial, lack spontaneity, are phony and manipulative in their interactions - and this is because they are thinking like modern materialists while trying to live by a set of beliefs and practices that are merely stuck onto the surface of this purpose-denying, meaning-denying, life-denying set of fundamental assumptions.

Modern Christians are like crude Robots who say and do the right things - but inside are merely whirring circuits following rigid programmes.

And they like that way...  Because, technically, modern real Christians are, at the deepest level, metaphysically atheist materialists; and their Christianity is a stuck-on lifestyle choice at the level of professed beliefs and adhering strictly to the rules.


But nobody is perfect! It is, indeed, very difficult indeed Not to be a materialist atheist at the metaphysical level, in the modern world - our upbringing, our history, and present society all inculcate and enforce it.

However, it is essential that modern Christians become aware of this very serious, very important, and indeed lethal defect of their faith.

They must not ignore their own gnawing, endemic dissatisfactions at the shallowness and meaninglessness of their lives. They must notice and acknowledge their profound state of alienation and the superficiality of their beliefs and practices. The mismatch between what they profess and how they think...

Only if these facts are known can they be repented; and only if they are repented can they (even potentially) be overcome.

10 comments:

Freddy Martini said...

Bruce,

Thanks again for your work. This is one of the more important essays you have written that condenses the Modern Christian problem in an essential readable article. Keep up the good work. You are doing something many of us feel, but are unable to articulate as well as you can. Thanks again.

JeejandDinda said...

Lucinda says:

I really appreciate this warning of pitfalls. It helps for sorting out and addressing areas of temptation within, as well as making sense of what is going on around us in order to effectively prepare spiritually.

Chiu ChunLing said...

"No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

I would hesitate to call those who only give lip service to Christ "real" Christians. I do not deny that in this day it is rare enough to find those who even profess the divinity and power of Christ with their tongue...but mere rarity does not imply any great value. Radon is among the rarest of elements that can be found naturally on Earth...and it does have some uses. But mostly it's regarded as something to be avoided rather than sought. To confess Christ when the secular authority deems doing so a crime (especially a capital offense) is lauded and even commanded by Christ. To merely profess Christianity when doing so is materially advantageous is no virtue at all.

Testifying of the truth even when it is punishable by death is one of the works of Jesus. Mouthing socially accepted platitudes without understanding or seeking to fulfill their meaning is not.

Bruce Charlton said...

Freddie and Lucinda - thank you. This gathers some points I have made separately before, and puts them into a 'tough' polemic.

In such difficult times as these, when it is so difficult for real Christians (and real Christian churches) simply to survive; there is a special problem with failing to evolve in ways that are necessary. Genuine spiritual progress being prevented by unnoticed and unrepented sins.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - While what you say is true - I am talking about people who are *real* Christians; and I don't doubt that they will attain salvation (because they sincerely want it). However, they still *think* like mainstream modern atheist materialists - and this has the serious consequences I describe above.

In a nutshell, they have salvation but not theosis - their spiritual progress being stunted or stopped by their way of thinking.

This, presumably, is why there are so few saints nowadays.

(At least, extremely few saints-of-holiness - in the Roman Catholic Church there are some modern saints who attained their status by other means than holiness - theology, organisation, missionary activity, martyrdom etc - such as Thomas Moore, or John Henry Newman. The saints I mean - who are so rare now - are the wonder working saints of holiness such have been somewhat more abundant in Eastern Orthodoxy, or in England Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, or in the RCC Saint Francis of Assisi.)

Chiu ChunLing said...

Ah, I suppose you mean what a Catholic would call the "invincibly ignorant".

I do not distinguish between those who are invincibly ignorant of Christ despite having been exposed to some particular historical derivatives of the divine message and those who are invincibly ignorant because of being limited to others. An ancient pagan worshiping Osiris would to my mind count as much as a "real Christian" under this defense of invincible ignorance as the modern worshiper of the popular perversions of the teachings of (and about) Christ.

On the other hand, I do not see invincible ignorance alone as being a particular barrier to theosis, nor do I see salvation and theosis as distinct. One may speak of theosis as a higher degree of salvation, but to be saved at all is to partake of the divine nature in some measure, and all greater measures even up to the full and unlimited eternal devotion to continuing to receive more divine nature in an infinite process are different only in degree, not kind, from the minimal receipt of God's grace that may be termed salvation.

And "unlimited devotion" definitely comes in degrees. I know that the smallest degree of anything infinite is infinite, while the largest possible degree of anything finite is finite, but I'm not absolutely convinced that there is really a profound categorical difference...I suppose it's because fundamentally I'm more of an engineer than a mathematician.

I basically doubt that the person who really makes a grand sacrifice of everything they have been granted by the grace of God in this life (which is finite) is really worse off than someone willing to make a small improvement every day for eternity, or rather I suspect that those who really sacrifice this life for "eternal ease" will not get bored with their status quo pretty quickly once they actually have rested for a portion of eternity. It seems to me that those who try to 'pace' their sacrifices are the ones who will be in danger of not being able to keep them up.

The waves of the sea grind rocks to sand by their endurance, but each wave expends its entire force on the shore without reservation. That is the true secret of their endurance, they always act only now, holding back nothing for some future. To be human (rather than just waves), we must consider the future, but we must never forget that the future we consider is still only a moment in eternity.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Well, my metaphysical understanding is different from this - e.g. I don't believe there is *really* such as thing as infinite; and the concept tends to make us crazy when used for anything other than pragmatic modelling.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Certainly infinity is not a real thing (or a real number, even). I suppose this is a commonplace childish misapprehension displayed so often among schoolchildren who have only been taught the word and not yet understood the concept. And it seems like most children grow out of it only because they realize that more educated adults regard it as a silly misapprehension without understanding what exactly is wrong with thinking of infinity as corresponding to a real entity or calculable number.

In computer science, "infinity" does not exist, only overflow or div/0 errors (stack overflow from non-terminating recursion is a bane of many a novice). The flexibility of our mental conceptions allows (and even requires) us to have a more nuanced idea than these to deal with unfathomability as it occurs in our reasoning about reality (or our conceptual models of it).

But probably nothing in reality is genuinely infinite. Merely beyond a particular capacity for measurement.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Yes. I think many of these mathematically-useful (or even essential) concepts such as infinite or random are not really real. Mathematics itself isn't real (unless you adopt the metaphysical assumption that mathematics is real, and nothing else is) - because the relationship between mathematics and reality is something that can only be regarded as a model (and all models are simplified representations, deliberately leaving-out many/ most aspects - so all models are ultimately wrong, and known to be wrong). Even when mathematics has worked in predicting reality many times in the past, we do not know whether it will do so in the future or elswhere, under other conditions.

BTW you might find this interesting, as I did - David Deutsch - Physics Without Probability:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfzSE4Hoxbc

Chiu ChunLing said...

That is quite interesting. Thank you.