Saturday 14 May 2016

Should we yearn for a strong state Christian church?

Christians in The West sometimes yearn for a cohesive Christian church - a strong Christian church, with strong leaders, and strong support from many adherents - with power to resist, roll-back and take-over the nihilistic secular regimes of our day to restore (some denomination of) Christianity as the national religion.

But I suspect this is a deception, a delusion, and impossible...

At any rate we are further from such a situation than any society ever has been in the past 2000 years. The main role such an idea plays is to set Catholics against Protestants, and Eastern and Western Catholics against each other - and to divert Christianity into abstract political speculations about imaginary SciFi scenarios where they have somehow been handed power and need to decide what to do with it...

The growing points of devout, life-changing Christianity in the West are mostly at a much smaller scale of organization - even when they occur within the framework of large church organizations, the 'good things' are happening at a small scale and among tiny minorities.

This seems understandable, given that the problem with modern Western Christianity is weakness of faith, not difficulties of organization - indeed, the nature of corruption in the West being top-down emanating from the ruling elites, and given the extreme corruption of those elites (especially by the sexual revolution), means that it is the organizational structures which are most destructive of Christianity, even when those structures are 'A Church'.

(i.e. With a corrupt ruling class, insofar as church leaders are drawn from that upper class, any church of whatever denomination is intrinsically more of a mainstream generic - hence secular Leftist - organization than it is specifically a church.)

From where we stand, we simply can't return to the previous situation of being Christian secondary to unconscious adherence to a church. Probably that would not be a good thing even if we could - but we cannot. Now, even the most strict and 'ultramontaine' Roman Catholics are Protestants in their minds - in the sense that they choose to whom to give their allegiance; they are aware that the leadership is working for secular Leftism; they are forced to choose and they know that they personally have-chosen (and could have chosen otherwise).

Because of the nature of our society - the simple, taken-for granted state/ church faith of much of history is impossible.

In sum, worldly political strength and effectiveness points in one direction - towards the lost world of a state Christian church - and encourages us to yearn for that world. Spiritual strength points in the opposite direction; but such inner-driven Christian churches seem intrinsically fissile - seem to divide Christians into ever small units, until we inhabit single-building denominations, home churches or operate as unaffiliated Christian individuals. From this there is no possibility of effective political action.

However, maybe that is how things are supposed to be in these End Times? Perhaps Christians are supposed to acknowledge that we have lost The World, and to put aside yearnings to establish another international Christian Empire (which were deeply defective, tyrannical and corrupt and secularized, when such Empires did exist).

We may be compelled to put our faith into a life 'Not of this World' - and to get life satisfaction from non-material and unperceived sources. And such compulsion may be our destiny: part of the divine plan as it unfolds toward the second coming.

Successes, likewise, would not be attained by force - because Christians are so politically weak and dispersed; but by miracles. And those miracles granted to sustain trusting faith of specific persons, to en-courage, to enable hope - but not any more miracles of societal strength and political conquest.

This, at any rate, seems to be the general nature of Christianity in those places where it is currently most vigorous, growing in adherents, and apparently most devout - for example in parts of Africa and China. These Christians are politically weak and persecuted (sometimes savagely so) - but as individuals their faith in Jesus is apparently very strong, and ultimately that is what matters: that is what it is all about.

The specific features of African and Chinese Christianity will not transfer to The West, I don't think; but there is no compelling reason why the general nature and type of these churches may not be replicated in The West, especially as persecution continues to increase.    


David Balfour said...

But seek and you shall find! As individuals we may sometimes feel alone but we are never really alone! God wants us to succeed and loves each and every one of his children dearly. The world may be 'lost' but surely Jesus always told us that to identify with it too strongly would be to miss the point! And so even the most well intentioned socialist utopia or hoped for a resurgent Christian empire would be an attempt to build a home on the bridge of Christ and not on the other side which is the only true place for our home to be. The otherside of mortal life. The otherside of repentance. The otherside of worldy woes and distractions.

Our task must be to avoid confusing the bridge with the home. I see this clearly today but often allow myself to become deeply confused about it. There is a quote in William Wildbloods book that says exactly this but from an Islamic source. I forget what the saying was now exactly. Maybe William chan chip in to expand on this and remind us but I understood the meaning in my heart very well.

As an aside, whilst I do not attend a Church or belong to a partucular denomination I remain open to sources of truth whereever I can find it. I discovered this man on you tube and I felt that his words were heartfelt and engaging and reminded me of the clear, simple messages of the gospel and of Christ. I wonder what your thoughts are:

His book sounds intriguing and I am tempted to get a copy to check him out further. It was one of those situations that i felt ths was specifically being brought ti my attention by heavenly father.

The Social Pathologist said...


My kingdom is not of this world.

David Balfour said...

Ben Smith said...

You used to be fairly keen on the Byzantine empire, Bruce. Has your approval soured?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Benjamin - I still retain a fascination, and was only last week reading Cyril Mango's tome on the subject (verdict: brilliant and detailed scholarship but a relentlessly facetious and hostile tone throughout...). But I now feel the alienness of it to myself and my country (and indeed civilization). Eastern Orthodox monarchy is fundamentally *Eastern*!- so that it seems an utterly unrealistic aspiration for me, here, and now.

Also, my intoxication with abstract 'Platonism' in theology has been (since late 2012) eclipsed by my love of the humanness of Mormon theology. The primary pessimism of Orthodoxy - in an utterly non-Orthodox society with no realistic propsect of ever being anything else - induced a kind of hopeless despair in me, that I found paralysing. Also, the lack of authoritative spiritual guidance meant that I never could be sure of anything - and the internal strife in the Orthodox church is England is such that the path is extremely confused.

Ad finally, I detected an insincerity in myself about this - a sense of play acting. So I had to put it aside, mostly.

John Fitzgerald said...

This question of a restored Christian 'Imperium' is bound up, for me, with the reinstitution of monarchy in general - something discussed here last month. I think it's something that could happen. An attempt could at least be made. It wouldn't surprise me, for instance, if Tsarism returneed to Russia, The next leader after this one, perhaps.

The only other country where I could foresee it occurring would be France. The idea of France as 'the eldest daughter of the Church' is still pretty potent there, and closely tied in with the monarchical tradition, of course. It'd probably take a catastrophe of some sort to awaken such a deep-seated archetype, but if a Christian monarch was to appear there, especially at a time of crisis and apparent defeat, it could really spark something across Europe and beyond. We shall see.

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - I am feeling my way on this. There is another post (focused on Solzhenitsyn) I've just done on the same theme. In general, I think if there is a Christian revival to come - then it would be, would need to be, something unprecedented. In particular that it would be, would need to be, a matter of many types of serious Christians across many churches working together in a way that hasn't happened before. Not just Catholics and traditional Protestants, but Pentcostals and the new churches. For example, there seems to be an extraordinary degree of spitefulness among old Christians against Jehovah's Witnesses, including denying that they are Christians at all - that kind of thing would have to stop.

William Wildblood said...

From memory the quotation you are referring to David is "The world is a bridge. Pass over it but build no house upon it". It's inscribed over the gate at Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. I suppose it means the same as 'Be in the world but not of it'.

Hoyos said...

@Bruce, my question may seem combative but I really do mean it with respect. I enjoy your writings and insights, and I know this is a sensitive issue.

The Jehovahs Witnesses don't believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ or that Jesus was crucified (they believe in a stake not a cross, may sound like a small distinction but it matters to many of us). Additionally Judge Russell kind of took a pair of scissors to the Bible to create his own version.

Are their any doctrinal points where if someone claims to be a Christian but doesn't accept the point of doctrine, that you would think it would be legitimate for other Christians to not recognize them as Christian?

For me and others like me, it's not about spitefulness so much as heeding the warning to be wary of other Christs and other gospels. Thank you for your time and whatever your response is I won't try to debate it unless you want me to, I don't wish to derail the thread too badly or badger anyone.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Hoyos - With ref to JWs I went into this to the extent of talking with one of the street evangelists in detail and reading a detailed book about their beliefs he gave me - and I was perfectly satisfied that they were Christians. They are admirably devout (prepared to make sacrifices for their faith) and are doing an exemplary job of (trailblazing) street evangelism where I live. So I am well disposed to the JWs - although clearly it is not for me.

I think it is a mistake to get too hung up on theological definitions of 'the nature of Christ' unless (as with Liberal Christians) these are a stalking horse for apostasy - and this is usually obvious from the fruits of the belief.

e.g. Rudolf Steiner had, what seems to me, a bizarre idea of there having been two Christ children who 'fused' to make one (he took the two different genealogies of the gospels as referring to different people)... Anyway, regardless of this, Steiner was a deeply Christian man, who regarded the birth and death of Christ as the decisive moment in the history of reality etc, So I have no problem about regarding him as a real Christian.

I am mindful of the Christology disputes of early Christianity, which I regard as having been a major wrong turn - perhaps THE major wrong turn in the history of the faith. Devout Christians tore each other apart and waged destructive war on each other over mere quibbles - quibbles regarding something which is really not knowable explicitly so *all* definitions of the nature of Christ are imperfect, incomplete and therefore wrong.

For example I see no convincing evidence (the hostile sources seem tendentious) that the Arians were anything other than good Christians - including some of the very best.

This was Christianity's first big test, and it failed - with consequences still evident.