Friday 30 December 2011

The profound evil of non-judgment


Political Correctness says: Don't judge - don't be prejudiced.

Christianity says: Judge everything, superficial or deep - because everything is tending either to the good or to the bad.

Christianity says: Be prejudiced about everything -  because your attitude to good and bad things must be different.


Only, be prepared to revise your judgements or prejudices in light of further developments. You must judge and be prejudiced, but as a fallen Man these will err.

Only God knows justice and the truth - but we must judge as best we can, guess the nature of things as best we can - grow to be like God as best we can.



JP said...

One of the major purposes of life is to develop and exercise good judgment. If you do not raise your children to have, and exercise, good judgment, then you have failed profoundly as a parent. The evil doctrine of non-judgmentalism must be utterly rejected.

Sojka's Call said...

Good post that got me to look again at the bible passages regarding judgement especially "judge not lest ye be judged". What one finds on rereading not just Mattthew 7.1 but also 7.2 - 5 is that the place in us the judgement comes from is the key. Of course, we must make judgements all the time and we can do that in accordance with God if our heart is in the right place.

Wurmbrand said...

Mature Christians must judge spiritual teaching by the standard of the Faith of the Church. It's agreed by all Christians that the Scriptures are, at least, of great importance in the exercise of this calling.

Mature Christians must, also, make judgments about Church discipline. Pastors/priests in particular are "stewards of the Mysteries" and have a key part to play in, for example, the excommunication of impenitent public sinners. In some circles it is regarded as almost unthinkable that someone presenting himself for Holy Communion should be turned away, but the Church has to do this sometimes.

Mature Christians are also called to judge outward behavior. Thus, for example, they may rightly discipline their children (what's your take on spanking?), must consider the words and acts of political candidates and then decide not to vote for Newt Gingrich (or whomever).

Mature Christians must not judge hearts. Only God knows the heart. If I am a mature Christian, I may serve as a judge and (if the laws of my state allow) pronounce even the death penalty upon a convicted murderer. But I must not judge his heart. The faith that saves is not without works, but I can't examine someone's works and then pronounce that he has, or does not have, life in Christ.

I'm reminded of a story that I read many years ago -- where I don't know. The story is that someone was being considered (I think by the Roman communion) for canonization. Rigorous examination of the person's life had been done. Miracles were attributed to his intercession. But then it was found that, of a man who was sentenced to death for a crime, or who had been so sentenced, the candidate said, "He's going to hell," or "He's in hell"..... and the canonization was dropped.

It seems to me that we must not say of anyone that he is damned unless the Bible says so. Of the wickedness of Stalin, Hitler and so many more there is no doubt, but do I know certainly that any one of these could not possibly have been reached somehow by divine saving grace?

You'll think me too radical, but I also have qualms about saying of anyone that he is in heaven unless the Bible says so. I am a Lutheran, but I don't know if Martin Luther is in heaven, or if C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien or my own grandparents are. I believe so. I don't know. Perhaps this is wrong in me.

But I come back again and again to this: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29). This is relevant to one of the problems I have with Rome and Orthodoxy, that they encourage devotions to departed saints, but we cannot know from Scripture that these people are in heaven. I realize that these churches have tests by which they make the decision. I may be wrong to doubt such tests. But perhaps we are supposed to restrict our prayers to our High Priest, Whom we know hears us.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dale - thanks for these reflections.

What you say is true, but as your last comment hints, it is not and cannot be the whole truth.

We cannot be guided by logic alone, because logic works on minute summary aspects extracted from the inifnite complexity of reality, and we are never sure from logic that we have not made a logical error.

This applies even when logic is applied to Scripture; because the understanding of Scripture must precede the logical checking and analysis.

There is a sense in which we do not *know* anything at all, but this insight will lead to nihilism if we really being to think that St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne might have been a subtle servant of the devil, rather than a Saint destined for Heaven.

As so often, we can turn to tradition, we can turn to persons and societies that we judge to have greater wisdom and Holiness than we ourselves do; and there we see the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saints - so we should accept this as at least valid, but more probably a profound truth.

In general, this test of tradition (the tradition of Holy Elders) seems to work best, exactly because it is the most neglected interpretative method in modern conditions.

The deep flaw of Protestantism (not a fatal flaw, but a continuous problem) was the act of Pride in remedying abuse by rejecting nearly a millenium and a half of wisdom and Holiness - this grossly unbalanced Christianity because it put excessive, impossible, weight on the rational understanding of Scripture.

Also, what we say with our mouths is subject to human error - it is what we believe in our hearts that counts. So people may legitimately *say* what sound like defniitie judgments about whether people are in Heaven or Hell, and these phrases should not be judged by canon law - that is the way of politcal correctness!

Truth is a middle path - we cannot believe everything, we cannot doubt everything; we must judge, our judgments will err and so on.

But we have been given *enough* for our *needs* - these things are not really a problem unless we let them be so, in which case we have strayed.

(The *real* problems are much simpler and much more difficult!)

Alan Roebuck said...

Dr. Charleton,

I must protest one assertion of yours here:

"The deep flaw of Protestantism (not a fatal flaw, but a continuous problem) was the act of Pride in remedying abuse by rejecting nearly a millenium and a half of wisdom and Holiness…"

But the Reformers accepted most of the accumulated tradition of the Catholic Church. Protestantism disagreed with basic Catholic doctrine on only two points: Sola Scriptura says that the Bible, not the Church, is the highest tangible authority (I say “tangible” because God is the highest authority, but He does not hold regular office hours), and Sola Fide says that salvation is by faith alone, and that works are a result of salvation, not a contributor to salvation.

To show that they were not innovators, the Reformers pointed not only to Scripture, but also to those writings of the Church Fathers which asserted Protestant doctrines.

Now, looking at the totality of current Protestantism, one would certainly form the belief that the Protestant is indeed guilty of the pride of rejecting the wisdom of the ages. And a cynic would say that one rebellion naturally leads to another. But the spirit of the Reformers was correction, not rejection.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alan - Thanks for putting this point.

But - for example - the rejection of veneration of the BVM and Saints, and of monasticism as the pinnacle of the spiritual life - was a grave error and impoverishment; and (with other changes) left the universe dead and empty except for God and Man - with the yawning chasm between bridged by Christ alone, and no ladder of Holiness.

(Of course, Christ alone is sufficient, and that is the most important thing. I would also say that path is extremely, almost superhumanly, hard to tread.)


I should point out that I do worship at and support a Protestant church, so I do not regard these as fatal errors.

My impression is that Protestants are the most devout people in modern society on average, and that it may well be *the best* type of Christianity for many or most people; but (since the age of martyrs) Protestants never seem to get very *far* along the path of theosis, since the Protestant way lacks so many helps available to the Catholic churches, and indeed usually denies any quantitative aspect to salvation.


Interestingly, as a side point; if one looked at the modern world it looks as if devout Protestants sought salvation through good works (especially evangelism) and Catholics through faith (especially faith in the saving sacrament of the mass), rather than the other way round.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, could you recommend some books that explain this Catholic path to salvation which you refer to with more detail? Imnobody

Bruce Charlton said...

@Imnobody - I suppose I am talking about the pre-Vatican II era, which can be read about in Chesterton and bellow.

But I first 'got' this when somebody (perhaps Humphrey Carpenter) contrasted the Inklings styles of Christianity - that Tolkien's devotions were focused on daily attendance at mass, and he wrote in a ltter to his son of the great benefits of this practice.

By contrast, Lewis, just after his conversion (when he was more Protestant than he later became) used to go to church regularly, but only participated in Holy Communion a few times a year (the minimum would be Easter and Christmas).

Of the two main Churches I attend, the Anglo Catholic has mass every day, sometimes more than once a day; the evangelical (Protestant) only has it every few weeks and services only on Sundays (plus home groups midweek and other outreach events and courses).

Wurmbrand said...

BGC, in your response to Imnobody, I think you mean "Belloc" rather than "Bellow."

I agree that tradition plays an important part in the Church's and each Christian's reading of Scripture. Mathison's Shape of Sola Scriptura can be helpful on a Reformational, rather than pop Protestant, understanding of this matter:

We may and should benefit by reading the lives of saintly men and women. However, we shouldn't allow ourselves to place these writings, in effect, on the level of Scripture. We do not know that the Holy Spirit protected the author of St. Cuthbert's hagiography from error. We may rejoice in the saint's life and wisdom. I'm saying, though, that perhaps we should shy away from teaching that he is in heaven. Isn't this a hidden thing of God? Are we prepared, are we fit, to state already who shall be resurrected to glory when the "books are opened" and Christ judges the world? My hesitation about these things is not from a desire to cut the saints down to the level of "ordinary" carnal people, but to keep my hands off a matter that the Lord reserves to Himself.

However I acknowledge that, were I to convert to Orthodoxy or Rome, one of the things I would need to accept is that the Church does truly know, in some cases, somehow, about the eternal destiny of some people who have departed this life and that, moreover, prayer to them for their intercessions is a good thing. Right now that looks to me like a serious mistake.

As for pride at the Reformation, I think that there's a very large shoe on the other foot. I won't speak of Calvin or Zwingli now, but Luther was one of a group of people who saw their church in great danger, terribly compromised by worldliness. Luther was something like a modern Catholic who risks much by criticizing the endemic secret sexual sin and the networks that protect the same. Luther didn't pull out from Rome to start his own church; he was kicked out. For what demonstrable theological error was he denied the Sacrament and threatened with death?

There is an interesting account of the matter in A. C. Piepkorn's Profiles in Belief, Vol. 2.

Not that I think anyone wants to start up a protracted discussion here of the Reformation vs. Rome, etc.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Dale - I agree, let's not go further with this.

Not least, because these differences only become significant at a far higher level of spirituality than most people(certainly myself!) reach nowadays.

I say again - despite that I believe the Catholic tradition goes higher, the *average* modern Protestant seems actually to be significantly more devout, more spiritual.

But I can't resist pointing out that St Cuthbert's hagiographer was the Venerable Bede - himself a Roman Catholic Saint. So the Holy Ghost seems to have been in charge of the whole business!