Monday 18 June 2012

How can a modern Christian self-compensate for being a Clever Silly?


Tricky - one has to avoid anything in which intellectual shenanigans has much of an effect: anything in which conclusions are sensitive to abstract reasoning or degree of knowledge.

This renders hazardous a dependence on the interpretation of scripture except when this is plain and undeniable (and what is plain and undeniable to a Clever Silly is evidently not much).

And clearly the modern institutional church is itself substantially dominated by Clever Sillies - so the acceptance of church authority is a matter of out of the frying pan into the fire.

So we are left with tradition - the consensus of devout Christians through the ages (through the past 2000 years, and not neglecting the first 1000 years).

I think tradition is the best that can be done.


Of course this means that a modern Christian must either reject or regard as insecure all recent (past few hundred years) innovations and additions - but that's okay.


Further reading: 

For a clearer understanding of Clever Sillies see:  



sykes.1 said...

But where does one find the Tradition? The Catholic and Orthodox Churches claim to espouse it, and the Protestant Churches reject it.

If one accepts the Catholic and Orthodox claims, then one must either be a Catholic or Orthodox. And this entails acceptance of a great deal of modern innovation, like Vatican II.

Or, you can be like my deceased sister and my living mother and simply pick and choose what you want to believe. Silly priests and bishops. What do they know?

Bruce Charlton said...

sykes.1 - "If one accepts the Catholic and Orthodox claims, then one must either be a Catholic or Orthodox. And this entails acceptance of a great deal of modern innovation, like Vatican II."

That is exactly what I do NOT mean!

If you go by what actually existing modern Catholics or Orthodox may say NOW, then that is not tradition.

Tradition is what people said and (especially) actually DID hundreds of years ago - which may be easy to find out, and pretty much uncontroversial (especially if one looks at old books).

Lordy! said...

I'm surprised spiritual experience isn't the preferred choice.

Mormons, for example, base conversion on personal experience - personal revelation from asking the Holy Ghost whether the Book of Mormon is true.

Cantillonblog said...

Isn't your phrasing - implicitly containing the idea that one's only hope is to try to compensate for one's disconnect from what is Real - rather evocative of a counsel of despair? There is also something rather Robin Hansonesque about it.

Surely the solution to the state of being a Clever Silly is to try to become less Silly, accepting that one is starting off with poor mental habits but holding out hope that with practice and persistence day by day one may become better.

Working on integrating what one knows at a single moment and across time might be part of the puzzle. Training oneself to observe the modern abortions of thought when it tends towards a dangerous area, and pushing oneself to allow the thought to unfold naturally further. Keeping track of what one thinks must happen and why, and then when one is proven wrong, going back and trying to understand what one has missed.

And then as you point out elsewhere, one can somehow connect to the spirit of men long since dead. This fits very much with Sheldrake, and indeed with insightful if vulgar writers such as Napoleon Hill (who suggests having an imagined council of advisors).

Lord Shaftesbury speaks of this here:-

I don't think what I am saying is at odds with the spirit of what you are saying.

Cantillonblog said...

"..why may not a Heathen Poet, in the ordinary way of his Religion, be allow’d to believe in Muses? For these, your Lordship knows, were so many Divine Persons in the Heathen Creed, and were essential in their System of Theology. The Goddesses had their Temples and Worship, the same as the other Deitys: And to disbelieve the Holy Nine, or their Apollo, was the same as to deny Jove himself; and must have been esteem’d equally profane and atheistical by the generality of sober Men.

Now what a mighty advantage must it have been to an antient Poet to be thus orthodox, and by the help of his Education, and a Good-will into the bargain, to work himself up to the Belief of a Divine Presence and Heavenly Inspiration? It was never surely the business of Poets in those days to call Revelation in question, when it evidently made so well for their Art. On the contrary, they cou’d not fail to animate their Faith as much as possible; when by a single Act of it, well inforc’d, they cou’d raise themselves into such Angelical Company.

How much the Imagination of such a Presence must exalt a Genius, we may observe merely from the Influence which an ordinary Presence has over Men. Our modern Wits are more or less rais’d by the Opinion they have of their Company, and the Idea they form to themselves of the Persons to whom they make their Addresses. A common Actor of the Stage will inform us how much a full Audience of the Better Sort exalts him above the common[8] pitch. And you, my Lord, who are the noblest Actor, and of the noblest Part assign’d to any Mortal on this earthly Stage, when you are acting for Liberty and Mankind; does not the publick Presence, that of your Friends, and the Well-wishers to your Cause, add something to your Thought and Genius? Or is that Sublime of Reason, and that Power of Eloquence, which you discover in publick, no more than what you are equally Master of, in private; and can command at any time, alone, or with indifferent Company, or in any easy or cool hour? This indeed were more Godlike; but ordinary Humanity, I think, reaches not so high.

For my own part, my Lord, I have really so much need of some considerable Presence or Company to raise my Thoughts on any occasion, that when alone, I must endeavour by strength of Fancy to supply this want; and in default of a Muse, must inquire out some Great Man of a more than ordinary Genius, whose imagin’d Presence may inspire me with more than what I feel at ordinary hours. And thus, my Lord, have I chosen to address my-self to your Lordship; tho without subscribing my Name: allowing you as a Stranger, the full liberty of reading no more than what you may have a fansy for; but reserving to my-self the privilege of imagining you[9] read all, with particular notice, as a Friend, and one whom I may justifiably treat with the Intimacy and Freedom which follows. "

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lordy and Cantillonblog - these are important; but anything like spiritual experience cannot be the basis of an institution in the way that tradition could.

However it can be incorporated: Mormon revelations are very important - for example about when to have children and how many - but (I am told) they restricted in scope to personal affairs: e.g. an ordinary Mormon cannot have valid revelations about the dogmas of the LDS Church, for example. Only the President or Apostles are said to be granted such revelations.

Lordy! said...

anything like spiritual experience cannot be the basis of an institution in the way that tradition could.

Probably right, but I will hope otherwise.

Take how a church is to be in Corinthians 14, especially verses 24, 25, 31, 34 and 35.

It is a recommendation to pursue powerful spiritual experience in a very politically incorrect form of organization/institution.

People, even devout Christians, just won't do what is laid out to do, which in my reading is to base an institution on spiritual experience. At least in theory that could change.