Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The transition of consciousness of adolescence - Catholic, Protestant and Intuitive Christianity compared

There isn't an agreed word to describe the kind of Christian I am - so I will label it Intuitive Christianity for present purposes - and compare it with what might broadly be called Catholic and Protestant versions. Understand that this is a short post - and what is described are 'ideal types' meant to capture a particular essence of each version. I am talking of ultimates - not of practical living - which will surely be multi-factorial...

The transition between childhood and adulthood takes place at adolescence - and adolescence is the only path from the one to the other. The essence of this transition - from an ultimate and divine perspective - is the transition from Obedience to Freedom.

(Noting that Freedom means something like Agency - i.e. becoming a conscious, actively-autonomous, personally-strategic adult: a source of innate motivation, decision, creativity.)

Obedience roots The Good externally - in some person, institution or social group. The Christian assumption is that these external sources are conduits of God's will.

(As in childhood - the child's role is to know and follow the guidance of parents, family, church, school, social group etc. - and such obedience is 'passive' - it does not require consciousness, and indeed young children are only somewhat conscious.) 

Freedom roots The Good in The Self, internally. The Christian assumption here is that God is within-us - as a deep, true Real Self.

Note that Freedom (that is Agency) is truly Good only if the Real Self is Good. And in practice this is a matter of contention among Christians - because clearly the overall-self is not wholly Good - so some kind of discrimination, definition and distinction concerning the Self is required.

1. The Catholic belief is that the Church (the mystical Church, contrasted with the organisation) is Good, is the conduit of God's will - but the individual is fallen and (in essence) depraved such that for the individual to be Good entails Obedience to the (mystical) Church.

God intervenes to ensure that The Church is and remains the conduit for God's will, and worthy of Obedience. Freedom is mostly about choosing this Obedience.

In practice, therefore, all Men are more-or-less permanently children; so permanent Obedience a necessity. Freedom/ Agency of The Self would be a cruelty; because as individual agents all Men are damned... self-damned by their sin and incapacities.

Freedom is therefore, and necessarily, tightly circumscribed by the overall duty of Obedience.  

2. The Protestant also believes that Men are depraved; but with the capacity to know Good by Obedience to divine revelation, especially as encapsulated in Scripture.

That is, all Men - as autonomous selves - are incapable of Freedom in the ultimate sense of agency rooted in the Self; but all Men have the innate capacity to understand Scripture and choose Obedience to it.

God intervenes to make this understanding of scripture possible; and that the Freedom of choosing to obey Scripture will be under God's will. Freedom is tightly circumscribed by the overall duty of Obedience.

3. My understanding (Intuitive Christianity) is that Freedom/ Agency is our proper, divinely-destined and ultimate goal - here-and-now, in The West; superseding the primacy of Obedience (whether to Church, Scripture or any other external source).

Christianity therefore ought to be rooted in the Real Self and pervasively based upon the Real Self; and Freedom ought not to be constrained to the primal chose of Obedience to Church or Scripture; but this discerning Freedom ought to be incrementally extended to all other matters of primary importance.

This is based upon a conviction that the Real Self is in fact God-within-us; and also distinctive to ourselves alone. In other words, as children of God we inherit God's divinity - but also each child is unique and has an unique destiny within creation.

(There must be a distinction between the true-real-divine Self which is intrinsically Good - and the multiptude of false selves which arise from error, sin, by inculcation, for expedience etc. - which may be good or evil; but are not divine, are often arbitrary and typically transient.) 

We all (potentially) know The Good innately and directly - and the ultimate authority is therefore with, not external; the ultimate value is Freedom to live from the Real Self, not by Obedience to any external source excepting our direct knowing of God.

Therefore, in an ultimate sense, my conviction is that Man - any man, any woman - may attain to salvation and live a life of theosis from-within; without membership of The Church or access to Scripture of other external sources; and, indeed, in an ultimate sense it is proper and best for a Christian's Life to be rooted in n the Freedom of the Real Self, and not in any external source.

In sum: Freedom is a higher (more mature, more adult) value than Obedience. 

External sources may of course be helpful, perhaps very helpful - but here-and-now in The West external sources may also be extremely harmful - the Church may be (usually is) subverted, corrupted and anti-Christian; Scripture, its translation and its interpretation is likewise usually corrupted, distorted, selective, misrepresented - inverted.

Indeed, it is precisely this situation that creates the urgent necessity of an Intuitive Christianity based on the individual and Freedom.

My understanding, therefore, is that Freedom has always been an essential element of Christianity; but in the past Freedom was used to make a single choice of Obedience; of whom or what to serve. In the past Obedience was more important than Freedom.

My contention is that this primal and vital Christian Freedom ought now to be extended to all major and significant aspects of Faith. From now, Freedom is more important than Obedience. That is our divine destiny; if Man is to move from his current spiritual adolescence into adult maturity.


William Wildblood said...

I think this is a real insight into the spiritual confusion of the present day. It explains why so many genuinely spiritual people cannot accept the restrictive nature of external religion and it also explains our current phase of arrested adolescence in which we are stuck in rebelliousness, unable to move on to true freedom because we seek a false one. That is to say, we seek autonomy of the false worldly self instead of developing a proper understanding of the true spiritual self which is the only source of true freedom of the mind.

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks William.

I was trying to clarify that all genuine Christianity (throughout history) has been based upon the genuine Freedom of an individual person to make an intuitive choice - at least one such choice. And this indicates that we contain that good-agency which is capable of making such a commitment.

It seems to me that we are being called (since the advent of modernity) to make more such commitments - to base more and more of our faith upon such commitments.

(This isn't new: the idea of confirming doctrine by personal revelation is a novel and core part of Mormon Christianity - which began nearly 200 years ago. But it still has a long way to go as a principle.)

However, in the face of rampant, aggressive, Leftist secular materialism and an hedonic/ utilitarian morality; the recent and current temptation is certainly to double-down on traditionalism and authority; and try to return to an obedience-based Christianity: i.e. a single act of Free Intuition to join The Church (i.e. to choose which Christian church to obey), then do what the church says; or mutatis mutandis wrt. The Bible...

But I don't believe that this is what God wants from us, nor what the angels are trying to tell us and prompt us towards.

And, anyway, anybody who does try to embrace tradition or authority in The West and then simply obey (as I did c.2010-2012) will find extreme/ bitter contradictions and conflicts among the churches, denominations, traditions and authorities - and, like it or not, will end-up being compelled to use intuition to decide between the rival possibilities.

Thus intuition is inevitable, and I believe it is also our divine destiny; here-and-now.

John Fitzgerald said...

Your last four paragraphs in your response to William are absolutely spot on and a very accurate description (amongst other things) of the current state of play in the Catholic Church. I remember when I was younger I used to feel disappointed that no matter what Mass I went to - be it in a 'liberal' church or a 'conservative' one - I could never find a resonance with the numinous note Tolkien, Lewis and Roger Lancelyn Green set ranging in me as a boy. I suppressed this feeling, chastised myself for 'subjectivism' and tried to submit my sometimes wandering imagination to authority.

I'm still trying and I wonder more and more these days if I'd have been better advised to go with the feelings evoked in me by those writers and trust that they came from God and would lead me to God.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I suppose the Mormon view of obedience and freedom is expressed in D&C 130.

"Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."

That is to say, there is no such thing as making a genuine choice without obedience to some directive which suggests that course of action as a means (valid, licit, both, or neither) to a desired end. If you embark on a course of action without any idea of the result, you are not making a choice at all, and if the idea you have about the result of your actions is pure solipsism then it is logically a petitio principii and therefore invalid. This means that all real choices are among obediences to external sources of information about the consequences of different actions, even though the desirability of those consequences is purely a matter of your own tastes.

That is to say, you don't have a real option of not obeying any external recommendations. You can only choose which offered results are attractive and which offers are trustworthy. You choose whom to obey, you cannot choose whether to obey.

This is not to deny that there is a serious danger in choosing to obey men who arrogate to themselves authority to pervert God's commandments rather than obeying God. It is merely to set that choice in the appropriate perspective. When we disobey tyrants, we may yet obey God. Indeed, often there is no way to obey both tyrants and God, anymore than one may serve both God and mammon.

Lucinda said...

Lucinda says:

I really liked this post and following comment. For me it lines up with the following Mormon scripture:

"For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;"

For me, the greatest value from scripture has been the way it acts as a kind of vocabulary between me and God. I'll be thinking about something, rooting out contradictions, grasping for understanding, and then the concise clarity often comes in the form of words from a hymn or scripture. This might be because I lack a strong command of language generally, particularly in conveying immaterial concepts. Though as my faith has increased, along with my feeling of loneliness in a hostile world, the scriptures have become a source of companionship with righteous persons in the past. I don't have strong supernatural sensitivity or intuition, so this has been a real help to me emotionally.