Sunday 11 February 2018

The Christian challenge of modernity - not yet faced

If, as I said yesterday, it is correct that Christianity was bound-to an unsatisfactory (and pre-Christian) metaphysics at an early point in its history - what was the effect?

Well, clearly, for several times and places over the past 2000 years, there have been great, indeed superlative, individual Christians - and there have also been (much more rarely and temporarily) fine Christian societies (albeit of very small scale, by modern standards).

So it could be argued, from its 'fruits' or outcome, that the mainstream Christian metaphysics was true, because it has sometimes sustained good Christians, or that at least it it can't be bad enough actually to prevent someone being a good Christian. Or that Christian metaphysics is irrelevant - because the real thing about Christianity is not metaphysics...

It is quite true that the real thing about Christianity is not metaphysics - otherwise it would not be possible legitimately to discuss the two separately - but that does not make metaphysics irrelevant.

My understanding is that the wrong metaphysics did not matter as much in the past as it does now (and for the past couple of centuries) - although it did have adverse consequences in the long and bitter (and profoundly un-Christian) 'heresy' disputes, wars and persecutions concerning Christology and the Trinity.

The fact that modern Christian churches remain unable to acknowledge the basic wrongness of the early-centuries church reactions to the Monophysite, Arian, Pelagian etc disputes has become something like a fatal flaw at the heart of things. The whole way that these disputes in the early Christian centuries arose, were formulated and conducted is clear evidence of profound wrongness in the way that the Christian churches were set-up from the start...

Christianity was muddling on - sometimes overall-Good, many times Not, until its great challenge began to emerge at about the time of the industrial revolution in the later 1700s: the challenge of modernity.

My understanding is that the challenge was divine in origin - it was the unfolding of Man's destiny that was desired; it was the irresistible pressure to make a Christianity that was conscious, explicit and based in the individual's direct knowledge of God and thus the individual's agency: the individual's autonomous free will.

The impulse behind modernity was the developmental push towards Man becoming more like God, during mortal life.

However, this pressure did not, except in a few individual persons, lead to the God-desired change. Men did not understand the need to develop what I have termed Direct Christianity.

Instead, Western human agency split between reaction and radicalism: between a doubling-down on tradition and conservatism; versus a this-worldly materialist throwing-out of Christianity, and all acknowledgement of the reality of the spiritual, of purpose, of meaning.

Attempts to 'liberalise' metaphysically-unreformed Christianity became assimilated to the secular materialist ideology. Attempts to be spiritual but not Christian very rapidly assimilated to the secular materialist ideology.

Extremely few people apparently understood the need to be both Christian and spiritual, to be individualistic and Christian; to be guided by intuition - but as a tough inner conviction of Good and source of resistance to adverse social pressure - and not merely as an excuse for short term hedonism and careerist or status-seeking self-aggrandisement. 

We now know, 200 years later, that tradition-conservatism failed to prevail or even to defend itself - and the perspective of this-worldly materialism has triumphed in this world. God and the immaterial are excluded from the public realm - and increasingly from private thinking. And the Global monitoring-control system of bureaucracy and the mass media are successfully pursuing goals that are more obviously demonic with each passing year.

The large and powerful Christian churches are by now de facto assimilated into secular materialism and have become fake/ pseudo Christian - while covertly anti-Christian; meanwhile the various traditionalist-reactionary and really-Christian churches are wedded to an indefensible metaphysics, as they have been for up-to 1900 years.
(This secular materialism triumphant is 'Leftism' - understood to include all worldly-materialism including the fascism, national socialism, conservatives, Republicans, libertarians etc - as well as the entire self-identified Left. It is the ideology of the entire Global Establishment at its elite level.)

What modernity has done is to probe and probe at the metaphysical flaws and inconsistencies of mainstream historically-dominant Christianity; and because these metaphysical flaws are intractable (they are built-into the assumptions), and because the mainstream theologians are unable or unwilling even to acknowledge that metaphysics is separable from the Christian religion; the mainstream can only double-down on them, and hope that the lethal criticisms will eventually go away.

But whatever (apparently) happens, my understanding is that the deep problem remains that divine destiny, 'the challenge of modernity', has been refused.

We now know in our hearts that while most of modernity-triumphant is evil and evil-seeking; some of the original impulse towards modernity was valid and necessary for man's spiritual development. We know in our hearts that both available sides are wrong - Leftism is wrong and evil in motivation; traditionalist Christianity tries to do Good... but is crippled and poisoned by a kind of fundamental and chronic metaphysical dishonesty.

Since no group in the modern world is prepared to tackle this matter head-on and explicitly - and indeed it is possible that no actually existing group can do so - since in this time and place groups may exist to serve the individual in his spiritual development, rather than the other way around... Then the implication seems to be that each individual person needs to take-on this heavy responsibility for his own spiritual development and theosis.

Our great fortune is that we are children of God the creator of this world and he would not leave us bereft of help. What we need to do we can do.

This is not, and cannot be, a matter of replicating the strategies of an earlier era - building churches, ideologies - persuading via the spoken and written word - getting power and protection... If it is truly individual, and truly based upon direct knowledge of the spiritual and the divine - then we have nobody to 'persuade' of truth, except our-selves.



lgude said...

I agree there was a missed opportunity in modernity and quite counter intuitively the book that put me on to the idea that i might be able to 'do' what I 'needed to' was Joyce's Ulysses. Quite simply it drove home the point that the heroic age was not just back in the days of Homer, but also in Dublin in 1904 and therefore down to me this day and every day. So the world is full of Cyclops, and Sirens, Circe and adverse winds. What else is new? Theosis is possible through Grace and that is the miracle.

Anon 735 said...

Thanks for saying so well what I have suspected without being able to pin down. A True Tour de Force!!!

Desert Rat said...

The various sects mistake means for ends and endow these with the stature of Him who gave them and for which they are meant as tools to come to know actual Truth. Faith, Hope, Love, Truth, Beauty and all righteousness are a Person. Know Him and know all. Every true saint and prophet have declared this. But the sects tend to fall into the hands of the Pharisees who value legalism and form above all else and are willing to persecute, torture and kill any who dare dispute this. These interfaith conflicts have done more to discredit true religion than any other factor.

Nigel Worthington said...

traditionalist Christianity tries to do Good... but is crippled and poisoned by a kind of fundamental and chronic metaphysical dishonesty.

I read your other post referenced on this, it sounds like you reject Platonic formalism in favor of something like process philosophy. But isn't the problem of universals an open question still in philosophy? I mean couldn't it still be "true" that in fact God is the omnipotent highest Good, Beauty and Truth?

Or is your criticism of traditional Christian metaphysics, more along the lines of the notion that it, yes it can't exactly be disproven, but i can only answer so many important human/theological questions with "well its just a mystery so just believe what I say and don't worry your pretty little head"?

Bruce Charlton said...


I'm afraid I can't explain what I mean any better than I do in the blog posts - where I make repeated attempts at the same thing. Indeed, I am mostly explaining things to myself, since nobody else is as interested in these matters as myself (here-and-now).

It certainly isn't process philosophy!

In general, Christian metaphysics has been a two milennial disaster! - evasive/ mystical where it need to be clear - and dogmatic where it makes the least sense - eg in statements concerning the nature and relations of the Trinity.

I would say that most Christians are blitheley unaware of the hopelessly unconvincing nature of the broadly-Athanasian Trinity 'mantra' as a 'solution' to a genuine problem. I believe that the rise of Islam was a direct consequence of this failure.

I was not a Christian until about ten years ago, but have been on the fringes all my life. I mostly know Christian theology from outside. Mostly, it looks like an exercise in laboriously missing the point.