Saturday 31 August 2019

Insufficient motivation is why modern Christians cannot be traditionalists (Or, nobody loves a modern bureaucracy.)

One thing that has changed a lot since the last major Western Christian revival (i.e. that of the 1939-45 World War); which is that a modern Christian must be far more personally motivated - and, where that necessary motivation is to be 'found' is not susceptible of a single, general, socially-applicable answer. 

Seventy years ago CS Lewis was able to write about Christianity in a way that pretty much rejected mysticism and personal spirituality; because the Western churches were still sufficiently strong that a Christian could focus mainly on obedience to church rules and teachings. It was, in other words, still possible to be a (mostly) passive Christian.

This was never a very good kind of Christian to be - it is, indeed, pretty strongly against the basic nature of the faith; and if a religion based upon obedience is what is wanted, then other religions do this much better than Christianity ever could. Christianity's most formidable rival is very clear about what is required of its adherents, and although difficult, this is finite and do-able - but those Christians who see their faith in such terms are flying in the face of its nature, and swimming against the current.  

Anyway, nowadays the passive Christians have mostly ceased to be Christians; and the traditionalists who yearn for a return to obedience-based faith sound less convincing with every year; and soon will become unable to convince even themselves.

This is because we cannot be motivated to obedience when the church has become (substantially) just another branch of the global careerist political bureaucracy.

Labile dishonest bureaucracy may be a sufficient motivator when it is paying you a salary, but otherwise it is not the kind-of-thing that inspires motivation - and certainly not the kind of thing to inspire loyalty.

One cannot be loyal to something impersonal and always changing; the greatest loyalty is to that which is loved and respected, which has integrity and reliability: that which lasting and strong (apparently permanent) .

One can only be strongly loyal and obedient to something that is (pretty much) the opposite of a modern, faceless, arbitrary, petty bureaucracy that most churches have become. Churches are - here, now, mostly - manned by a rotating cast of despicables: cowards, placemen, drones, incompetents, showmen and psychopaths.

Therefore, although I can certainly understand and empathise with the desire of Christian traditionalists for a simple faith characterised by obedience and loyalty; they have-found, they will and shall continue-to-find, that as Christians they Cannot Do It.

They will not be able to generate and maintain motivation to believe, obey and be loyal to the kind of organisation that the modern churches have become.

And if such people want to be or remain Christian, they will have to seek motivation that actually works. Which requires (to some significant extent), to seek the divine within themselves - by whatever means is effective.

And that means mysticism.


Anonymous said...

If by mysticism, you mean personal revelation - and strengthening - from God through the Holy Spirit, President Russell Nelson described exactly how to do that in his first General Conference as president of the church:

One of the key quotes: "But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost."


Bruce Charlton said...

@B - That is part of it; but not the whole thing.

Francis Berger said...

Obeying dogma and external authority have served an immense historical purpose in the development of Christianity and Christian consciousness, but you are correct, we cannot return to a Christianity based purely on external authority and external living, primarily because it is these very things that have caused Christianity to wane and decline.

The way forward in Christianity is inner-mystical. My only concern is we may end up encountering more "mystification" than actual mysticism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Francis - Yes. My understanding is that we need to move away from discussing whether and to what extent (e.g.) dogma and external authority etc are 'a good thing' because this either is not available or else it is not going to be spiritually or psychologically possible.

That option is - if people are honest - already eliminated in most churches; but people are pretending that they are not already making their own personal discernments, and are simply being obedient to unambiguous traditional guidance. This pretence is not only dishonest, but erodes faith.

Some stop calling themselves Christian, because they think that Chritianity = church; but those who remain in the churches (and self-identify as Christian) will tend to become almost pure bureaucrats - engaged in the usual stuff that all bureaucrats do.

I am looking ahead here, extrapolating; and there is a middle stage and a phase during which much benefit can be had from specific churches in specific places; and in which the authority and doctrines of good churches can be of great help - especially in bringing up children. But the corruption of Western Christian churches is not stopping, it has gone very far indeed and is continuing.

Christians need to be discerning about their churches, and be prepared t leave rather than go along with corruption. If they cannot find an uncorrupt church, they need to be prepared to go it alone - and they need the resources to do that; including inner resources of a kind that used to be rare.

Ron Krumpos said...

The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience.