Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lesson of the Great Schism: to question is to destroy


The Great Schism happened around AD1000 when the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches divided (into Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism) - and it happened due to the spirit of questioning.


The Creed had for some hundreds of years stated that (in the Holy Trinity) the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father - but the Western Church (continually questioning and reasoning) claimed to have discovered that this should be modified to read Father and the Son.

Leaving aside the strength of arguments - the filioque conflict was caused by the spirit of questioning in the West.

Another factor in the Schism was scholasticism - which was the increasing domination of the Western Church by expert philosophers to fill-in gaps in revelation and natural law by the use of human reason - sometimes to challenge old dogmas, to suggest new extensions of Christianity (beliefs, practices etc).

In sum, a spirit of questioning began to dominate Western Christendom.


The East took the mystical path, the path of monasticism, with the clarification of Hesychasm as a method of contemplation, the foundation of Mount Athos and the acceptance of mystery.

Instead of seeking philosophical answers; questions were dealt with by deepening of religious practice.

The idea was that the answers could not be understood by those insufficiently advanced in sanctity, and that it was dangerous to try and provide logical answers to all philosophical queries.


Western questioning led to all kinds of things: philosophy, science, technology, economic growth - and of course it led to secularism and the political Left and to nihilism triumphant (the destruction of truth, beauty and virtue).

In a nutshell, the spirit of questioning led to evil: evil triumphant; just as it led to power, comfort, prosperity and the other benefits of modernity.

And since the advent of political correctness, the spirit of questioning has turned against its benefits: clearly the spirit is insatiable, will not rest until nothing of anything remains but questions...


So, let us be skeptical about the use of skepticism: let us question the continual promotion of the benefits of questioning...

Let us oppose the spirit of questioning (so often driven by pride and self-assertion and covert aggression) with the spirit of Good.

When we perceive the Good (which we know by instince and Grace) as threatened by the questioning, we need the discernment to cleave to the Good and question why questioning is promoted as intrinsically 'good': wee need to ask - who or what kind of purpose would propose that questioning was an intrinsically beneficial activity?

To ask the question is to answer it: the nihilist. The only person who would elevate questioning above the Good (or who would equate questioning with teh Good) is one who wants to destroy the Good.

Kill it: Death by a thousand pecks.


To question is to subvert. Be careful what you question. 


Or: you are allowed one question.

Be careful who you ask.

Then it is up to you to understand the answer.

(Only when you understand the answer are you allowed another question.)



Rollo said...

It's a pretty broad thesis: Western Christianity, driven by questioning, has become agnostic; meanwhile, Eastern Christianity, rejecting said questioning, has stayed the course and remained true to the faith.

Well, does the data support your thesis? I can't see how. Look at the nations of Orthodoxy today - they are in utter spiritual and cultural shambles. I fail to see the spiritual light radiating. Now, I'm not claiming any huge cause-effect thing as you are with a decline of Western Christianity, but if EO doctrine leads to such spiritual development and enlightenment as you posit, why don't we see it?

Rather, what we do see is a demographic implosion in the EO countries that has rarely happened in the history of mankind, and the creation and destruction of one of the most evil empires ever.

Also, in the East we see a lot bitter spiritual angst against the West that one sees far less from the West, which is quite friendly to the East. For exmaple, most Western Christians don't even remember the Schism, having long moved on. Yet most EO can't seem forget it. Which approach best embodies the teaching of Christ and shows spiritual development?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Rollo - presumably then, from what you say, you would put the date further back than AD 1000. Maybe so...

But the breakaway of the West has, of course, influenced the whole world with no place exempt.

So, I don't really accept the method of comparison.

And also, it does seem that the some of EO world has been experiencing a large scale and real revival of Christianity since 1989/90: I am thinking of Russia and Romania especially.

The damage of Communism is a long way from being healed, and indeed it never can wholly be healed - especially since the scale of damage keeps being revealed as greater and greater: for example, it is less than two years since I discovered the appalling scope and severity of Christian persecution in the USSR.

The damage of atheist Leftism is of a type unprecedented in human history - it has penetrated very deeply into the mind, so that many have lost not just religiousness and high culture, but basic common sense and instinct - and have been rendered insane and idiotic. This is a new kind of evil.

Gyan said...

Is the present day disruption truly unique?

Churches and monasteries were looted and destroyed during Reformation in England and don't forget the Iconoclasts in ancient Constantinople.

Dante had placed several Popes in Hell itself. I suppose he witnessed a great disruption too.

Wm Jas said...

The spirit of questioning was already a central feature of the West long before the Schism, and indeed long before Christianity itself. It dates back at least to Socrates and Herodotus. Within Christianity, it has St. Paul on its side: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

Surely what was behind the filioque conflict was not the spirit of questioning but the spirit of answering. The sin, if sin it was, came not when they asked "Why from the Father only? Why not from the Son also?" -- but when they concluded from their inability to answer that question that it had no answer and proceeded to rewrite the Creed to match their philosophical opinions. Pride, not questioning, caused the Schism.

In fact, I wonder if "opposing the spirit of questioning" is even a coherent concept. After all, a monotheist questions every religion but his own, and your own worldview depends on questioning virtually everything most moderns believe.

It's not a matter of whether to question, nor even of what to question, really -- but of whether and how to answer a question once it has been raised.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Gyan - one of the main tenets of this blog (and the Thought Prison book) is that things nowadays are indeed unique.

The destructions that you mention were done by people in the name of Good - they believed they were more spiritual and more theologically-correct than the mainstream.

Moderns are judging the Church by secular criteria, and are not even trying to be Good - indeed that is what they are against (eg they 'believe' in Good, but evil makes no sense to them).

@WmJas - well, pride is the ultimate sin behind the others, so in that sense you are correct.

The ancient spirit of questioning was not the same as postmodernism - nonetheless I think there were serious problems in Socrates attitude, and I have never been able to embrace him as a hero. St Paul's attitude is quite different from Socrates.

One of the triumphs of modernity is to question common sense, spontaneous knowledge, eye-witness etc in favour of (first) expert professional knowledge (such as science, which people did used to believe) and more recently mass media (which people sort of believe, sort of disbelieve).

"opposing the spirit of questioning" - I can't see this as incoherent. There is a thing termed 'spirit of questioning' - and I oppose it.

The spirit of questioning is the commmon idea that anything should be questioned, nothing is sacred (above questioning), we should teach students to be 'critical' etc. etc.

Of course this spirit is only applied to things which Leftist oppose; nonetheless they do go on a lot about this spirit and use it as a first line argument to defend the freedom of the press to lie and distort, the necessity for state subsidy of high art and science and academia, modern morality etc.(the s or q is only the front line behind which they have ranged several fall back positions).

Anonymous said...

Yes, question about gay people being normal, and you will be how far this spirit of questioning goes...

But the hardest thing is not to be able to talk with your friends and family about God, about the Good, about the falsity of progressive thinking, about things that matter.

They are so drowned in nihilist categories (learned through media, school and the society in general) that you would have to deprogram them for months only to start being able to have a conversation with them that they could understand.

So you end up feeling alone...A crazy wolf...

Bruce Charlton said...

@ANON - "But the hardest thing is not to be able to talk with your friends and family about God, about the Good, about the falsity of progressive thinking, about things that matter."

In a nutshell. This is conclusive evidence that we are NOW (already) living in a totalitarian state, which has imposed itself incrementally, by stealth.

Gyan said...

It has been argued that the modernity is just the terminal phase of the decaying Protestantism--Advanced Decay Product as it were.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Gyan - I would disagree strongly. Protestantism is Christian while Leftism is anti-Christian.

I agree there is a lineal descent; but even there Protestantism is partly a reduced from of Christianity, making things worse (especially in the sense of deleting the highest possibilities of Christian life - monasticism culminating in Sainthood); but Protestantism was also partly a response to the fact that things were getting worse, and a way of making it possible to be a Christian in situations which would otherwise have been impossible.

Gyan said...

Leftism is in fact a collection of heretical Christian ideas. see Socialist Phenomenon by Igor Shafarvich. You can call it anti-Christian if you like but it is not anti-Christian in the same way as Hinduism is.

As Belloc puts it (The Great Heresies), there is the Church and various heresies that surround it and attack it. Protestantism is another set of heresies, having quite in common in Leftist ideas.

For Belloc, there is nothing called a Christianity and never has been. There is only Church.

As for the great disruption, note that Dante had put several Popes in the Inferno--things were never rosy.

Jens said...

I find myself agreeing more and more with Gyan.
And asking questions is not the problem, its how you get answers. Questioning something is different. One asks why is this, the other asks why not toss this aside.