I should first say that Romantic Christianity is for adults, for post-adolescents. It is, in other words, a product of the modern adult consciousness.
It is for all Western adults, because all modern Western adults are Romantic; and all may (if they want it) choose to accept the gifts of Jesus.
But I need to say this because this means that Romantic Christianity is neither intended-as nor suitable-as a Christian way of bringing-up children - raising kids is still, essentially, pretty much the same as it was in the era of traditional Christianity. In other words, for pre-adolescents guidance must necessarily be external, and therefore a Christian environment is the key (home, school, church, books, 'media' etc).
But beyond adolescence lies the destiny of a Romantic consciousness, and the new thing needed is that this be a Christian consciousness.
One major concern about Romantic Christianity relates to morality - and in these times and this place, this means primarily sexual morality. Traditional Christianity was pretty clearly defined in relation to sexual morality; and mainstream modernity has as its (perhaps) core value the Sexual Revolution in its various dominating phases.
The Sexual Revolution is, of course, ever 'advancing' its scope (despite the contradictions) via advocating positively divorce, extramarital promiscuity, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, sadomasochism, transexualism and so on 'forward' toward paedophilia and I don't know what next - the stages of dominance of which define modern culture.
Traditional Christianity is clearly against the sexual revolution - on various grounds: for example the teachings of scripture, the authority of the church, the primacy of tradition, the rigorous implications of theology. Now, all of these grounds are 'external' - so Romantic Christianity requires that they must be validated by internal and intuitive understanding and assent.
The problem has often been that the Romantic impulse has, since the time of Lord Byron and Shelley, often been used as a reason to reject traditional sexual morality - by simply claiming that one does not find intuitive confirmation of 'conventional' morality; and that - on the contrary - inner conviction validates unfettered expression of one's own current lusts and desires.
This 'morally relativistic' way of reasoning has become 'official' over the past several years; so that the sexual revolution requires no greater validation than that claim that it would make some person or group unhappy, or simply unfulfilled (here and now) if they were prevented from doing some sexual thing that they currently very much want to do. If, that is, the 'thing' is currently approved-of by the mainstream sexual revolution at that particular point - and this has changed, and reversed, through recent history. For instance, 'Weinstein-type' promiscuous behaviour was strongly supported, positively-media-depicted, and leftist-advocated in the late 1960-70s, when 'hetero'-sex was officially regarded as merely a pleasurable type of physical exercise; not to be taken seriously.
This validation of extended sexuality began by being applied only to 'consenting adults in private' and was presented as toleration; but has swiftly been extended to public situations and to children of any age and it is now necessary that extending the sexual revolution (in officially approved direction) be actively and publicly embraced - and this positive attitude is compulsory.
It certainly seems (to traditionalist Christians) as if Romantic Christianity is either sure to be distorted to rationalise the sexual revolution (as happens all the time among the mainstream churches, and by 'liberal' Christians'). But then, the fact is that anything can-be/ has-been/ is-being perverted to rationalise the sexual revolution - whenever the motivation to do so outweighs the desire for truth.
The way I think of it is that the intuitions of Romantic Christianity do not merely 'validate' the truth of sexual morality as it is (partially, with some distortions) represented by the various traditional Christianities (which situation would suggest that the intutions are not necessary, because we could take traditional moal codes as a short-cut to where we wanted, ultimately, to go). Instead, what happens is that by Christian intuition we are able to know for our-selves that sexual morality arises-from ultimate and universal reality.
We personally tap-into the very source of morality, in the nature-of-things - that is in God's creation.
But this direct knowledge of ultimate sexual morality is Not in the traditional form of general laws and rules about collectives of people; instead (as Rudolf Steiner makes clear in Philosophy of Freedom).
What would be (can be) discovered is that morality is on the one hand absolutely specific to each situation, and also absolutely objective - there is always just one right thing to do, and one only.
And this we can know for-ourselves, and can only know for-ourselves - although equally the judgement of what we may say or do is open to the unique and direct evaluation on others who love us*.
*But only those who love us - because only such have the ability to know directly concerning our souls - by contrast, with other strangers and secondhand observers, they will merely be applying general principles to general situations.
I was studying in Matthew with my children and the verse came, "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." My children wondered about it, since we believe in eternal marriage. I explained that I think it means that marriage as we understand it as a social institution, enforced and rewarded by community rather than arising out of love, is incompatible with heaven. But I told them that in this life, people who embrace the idea of "free love" are mostly just liars trying to gratify their lust and take advantage of women and children. That won't happen in heaven, but making this life a matter of learning with agency requiring faith takes precedence over protecting the innocent from bad choices.
Children have more natural clarity about some things. One of my daughters moving out of childhood said recently, "I used to wonder why anybody would even be tempted to be immodest with their bodies since so many bad things come from that. But now I know what it feels like to be tempted."
@Lucinda - I think this verse illustrates the problem of regarding the Bible as correct in each verse. One is compelled to 'explain away' some verses in order to be consistent.
Of course, Joseph Smith stated that the Bible (as we have it) was not perfect and contained errors! - but in practice most serious Christians of all types are very reluctant to say about any verse "Well, *that's* just not true".
I find it necessary to discard even some verses from the Fourth Gospel (although not many) as being inconsistent with the rest, and appearing to have been interpolated. But when it comes to Matthew, I find quite a lot of verses (and indeed teachings) that I regard as mistaken - and this is one of them.
"What would be (can be) discovered is that morality is on the one hand absolutely specific to each situation, and also absolutely objective - there is always just one right thing to do, and one only."
Yes, and recognizing the only right thing to do is where freedom resides - but this requires the "moral imagination" Steiner mentions in the essay linked to the post.
This is a very important post, in my opinion. Sexual morality in our contemporary world is wielded either as an excuse or as a weapon - it goes without saying that sexual morality should be neither.
I'm someone who have only gazed at Barfield and Steiner, but I feel their ideas are very spiritually potent, as they elicit strong visual impressions and "aha" moments upon me. Steiner is supposed to have said that with Christ's birth, the world was 'literally' turned inside out. In man becoming interiorized, the world and thus the bible became exteriorized. The inner truths became codified precept, but still hold their inner depth. This means the bible is a Living document, not a fixed one. So if I understand you correctly in relation to this, the challenge for Romantic Christians would be to evaluate how the objective rules subjectively apply to each particular situation. That is, being pro-scriptive, rather than pre-scriptive.
Two thoughts-1. Sadly even William Blake is an icon of sexual immorality. If anyone exemplifies the Romantic impulse it is Blake. Perhaps the ugliness of the Left had to arise for Romantic Christians to recognize the evil of sexual license. 2. It is interesting how close your quote from Steiner is to Karl Barth's understanding of obedience. For Barth in the moment you know what God demands of you.
I used to consider the verse simply untrue, until I had sorted out for myself what I believed eternal marriage really was.
In context, the questioners are being very formulaic, assuming that one should be able to know whose of the seven she shall be based on a scenario. Jesus answers by telling them that marriage, the way they've framed it, doesn't happen in heaven, and goes on to say that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, beings who choose.
So I guess that's why I thought it fit in with this post, since the episode brings out Jesus' agreement with the idea that "sexual morality is Not in the traditional form of general laws and rules about collectives of people".
@Eric - I have benefited greatly from Steiner and Barfield and continue to do so - but it would be a mistake to assume I believe The Same as they do. In what you write above, I have found many vital hints in Steiner's attitude to scripture, but I regard most of what he says as wrong - and his general attitude as much too abstract and physics-like.
"the challenge for Romantic Christians would be to evaluate how the objective rules subjectively apply to each particular situation. "
No, that is not it at all. My point is instead that we have come to regard the objective rules as the primary moral reality - we assume that reality is the idea that there are abstract General Laws (set up by God) and that morality would be each of us perfectly obeying these Laws... but this is false.
The primary moral reality - how the universe 'works' - is actually that morality is more like a personal destiny, in the sense that it is unique to the situation, which means that it is unique to the particular interaction of the relationships between Beings.
So, there is always a moral path, an unique morally correct (which is also true and beautiful) *way* for each and every situation to develop - this is the path of loving creation, the path that aligns with God's creation. We know this, and we can choose it - or not.
The Laws are not real, they are (when 'true') simplified and generalised summaries of an open-ended number of unique instances. These are practically necessary, probably; but they are expedients, not ultimates.
The reality is not of laws, but of life more like an unfolding process - we cannot *really* divide life up into chunks to which laws apply - life is really a continuous and joined-up thing - which is why laws never wholly 'work', and always, even the best laws, will lead to some specific injustice (and we each can feel that injustice, spontaneously - because we already know of the justice beyond laws).
So the reality of life - for example for Jesus - was that a God-loving and God-aligned Man would go through life Knowing what he ought to do all of the time, and always choosing to do it - in a continuous and seamless way.
Life cannot really be divided into, nor summarised in terms of, a set of laws applied to general types of situation - that is merely a crude approximatTon, and leads to wrongness - as Jesus demonstrated when he kept needing to break the Law in order to behave morally.
@GDV - Modern Leftist materialists can only always mirepresent Blake, or anyone else, because they believe he was grossly deluded about the spiritual, supernatural and divine. In fact all actual evidence suggests that Blake was highly moral in his sexuality - compared with the great majority of people; but he is distorted into what is rhetorically needed by the self-blinded.
"Perhaps the ugliness of the Left had to arise for Romantic Christians to recognize the evil of sexual license". Well the actual Romantic Christians never did advocate sexual license - it was the anti-Christian Romantics who did that.
And I don't at all believe that 'had to'. It would have been much better (and surely it was what God wanted) if Men had (individually, but en masse) chosen the true (creative, loving) path for themselves; instead of the path of hedonic materialism; or materialistic legalistic Christianity.
"I regard most of what he says as wrong - and his general attitude as much too abstract and physics-like."
Well he seems to have equated the material with the spiritual, as he was a monist. Maybe he went too far in collapsing these distinctions entirely, but I would have no idea. At least my initial impression is that he has this microscopic, naturalistic approach to spirituality. I'm not sure I could sit snd stare at a plant all day, but then again I'm not Rudolf Steiner.
"No, that is not it at all. My point is instead that we have come to regard the objective rules as the primary moral reality - we assume that reality is the idea that there are abstract General Laws (set up by God) and that morality would be each of us perfectly obeying these Laws... but this is false."
So basically we should not be like dogs chasing a ball on a stick tied to their neck. In other words, ideal Man would naturally embody love and truth in-action, in any given moment. And this would distinguish "apes (imitators) of God", from real sons of God.
@Eric - That sounds much closer to what I think! Steiner (and Barfield) seem ultimately to have regarded divinity as immaterial/ spiritual - with a U-shaped decent from spirit into matter then an scent from from matter to spirit.
Bu contrast; I see things as a linear movement from spirit to incarnation - with God as always having been incarnate and immortal and ourselves as (by choice, so far as we choose) moving towards that state - at present we have gone from spirit to mortal incarnation - Jesus made it possible to go from this to immortal incarnation.
I got this from core Mormon teaching, originally revealed by Joseph Smith - and found it intuitively endorsed in my heart. In summary, my metaphysical assumptions are based in Mormonism (I have a blog archive of my Mormon posts - Speculations of a Theoretical Mormon), modified first by William Arkle, and then Barfied and Steiner - and most recently refined and looped-back by the Fourth Gospel read 'in isolation'.
Thank you for your response on Blake.
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