Friday 24 December 2021

My core argument for Romantic Christianity

In response to some e-mail communications from Alan Roebuck (of The Orthosphere blog) I will here try to provide a concise summary of my core reason for being a Romantic Christian; and, in the process (and speaking for myself), an attempted definition of what Romantic Christianity might be. 

My underpinning conviction is that God is the creator of reality, and is loving of each and every man and woman in the same qualitative way as the most ideal parents in an ideal family. 

(i.e. God the creator is our Loving Father and Mother.)

The purpose behind creation is that Men be given the chance to become as God in divine stature (i.e. in love and creative power). The hope that as many as possible mortal Men will choose to become resurrected and immortal Men, and choose to dwell with God in Heaven as a loving divine family; working with God on eternal his divine creating. 

Romantic Christianity is based on the conviction that such a God would never leave any of his children bereft of sufficient guidance and motivation for them to make that choice of resurrected life eternal and to live on earth such as to become more divine in that eternal life.

This principle of "None Left Bereft" implies, negatively, that sufficient guidance would not be allowed to depend on a particular child-of-God's access to a particular church, a particular book (The Bible), particular traditions, or any other of the specifics of human mortal life. 

All of these sources of guidance are too uncertain, not universally available; and too open to both corruption, distortion and misunderstanding. Therefore: God would not rely-upon such mechanisms

Positively; it therefore seems certain to me that God has created this world and our lives such that we all have direct access to the knowledge - the guidance and motivation - which we need for salvation and theosis.  

Direct access means direct divine guidance from God ('direct' meaning 'mind to mind', not depending on language; that guidance will 'appear in our thinking' -i.e. 'intuition'); and this external guidance is in addition to the fact that - as sons and daughters of God - we all have a divine self; a core divine nature that enables us to receive and understand this directly-transmitted guidance. 

My understanding of Romantic Christianity is that it is based on a conviction that this direct divine guidance (supplemented by that which is divine in each Man) ought-to-be the basis of every Man's Christianity as of 2021 (although this was not always true in the past, in some places). 

I could continue explaining - but I shall keep it brief; and I think there is probably enough there. 


Dave Bagwill said...

You resonate quite a bit with a man I read often - George MacDonald.

He was also a 'fan' of the romanticist Novalis

I have much sympathy for the Romantics. To it's extreme, it can turn demonic, though.

Bruce Charlton said...

@DB - Extreme? I think you mean when romanticism is not Christian.

But there is no safe path to Christianity - as has been demonstrated by the apostasy of All the mainstream Christian denominations in face of the birdemic/ antiracism etc.

Dave Bagwill said...

I had in my mind a passage from C.S. Lewis, with whose writings you are well-acquainted, where he was discussing his romanticicm as one stop away from the occult. I cannot locate the passage at the moment. In was in the context of his conversion; the conversion baptized his romanticism and kept his spiritual search from declining into the occult.
Fascinating stuff.

Bruce Charlton said...

@DB - Like Owen Barfield, I regard CSL as having two, contradicting, attitudes about Romanticism - what he said (in essays) and what he did (in stories, mostly). All this is well analyzed in RJ Reilly's Romantic Religion (about Barfield, Lewis, Williams and Tolkien).

Dave Bagwill said...

Good book tip, thanks.

Some of George MacDonald's writing comes very close to a kind of Christian pan-en-theism, also. I'm sure you've immersed yourself in GMAC at some point. I really like this quote from his 'Essay on Wordsworth's Poetry" :
The very element in which the mind of Wordsworth lived and moved was a Christian pantheism. Allow me to explain the word. The poets of the Old Testament speak of everything as being the work of God’s hand:—We are the “work of his hand;” “The world was made by him.” But in the New Testament there is a higher form used to express the relation in which we stand to him—“We are his offspring;” not the work of his hand, but the children that came forth from his heart. Our own poet Goldsmith, with the high instinct of genius, speaks of God as having “loved us into being.” Now I think this is not only true with regard to man, but true likewise with regard to the world in which we live. This world is not merely a thing which God hath made, subjecting it to laws; but it is an expression of the thought, the feeling, the heart of God himself. And so it must be; because, if man be the child of God, would he not feel to be out of his element if he lived in a world which came, not from the heart of God, but only from his hand? This Christian pantheism, this belief that God is in everything, and showing himself in everything, has been much brought to the light by the poets of the past generation, and has its influence still, I hope, upon the poets of the present. We are not satisfied that the world should be a proof and varying indication of the intellect of God. That was how Paley viewed it. He taught us to believe there is a God from the mechanism of the world. But, allowing all the argument to be quite correct, what does it prove? A mechanical God, and nothing more."


Lady Mermaid said...

The heart of romanticism being potentially demonic goes back to motivation, as you have stated so many times. If someone is using romanticism, or anything else, as an excuse to sin or justify selfish behavior, that is certainly demonic. Romanticism went wrong when many of its proponents supported sexual immorality. In fact, I would go as far as to declare modern science another demonic activity. Its proponents are downright wicked and use technology for horrific ends.

It's funny how CS Lewis is mentioned when I just read The Magician's Nephew this afternoon. The character Uncle Andrew is a perfect example of using magic the wrong way. Uncle Andrew uses the magic rings not to better understand reality or the divine will, but for selfish personal gain. Lewis might have had this in mind when he spoke of the thin line between romanticism and the occult.

Jack said...

Interesting discussion about romanticism and the demonic here. I think there certainly is a demonic side to romanticism, just as there is an angelic side. Romanticism from the start has been a post-Enlightenment longing to regain unity: with human nature, the natural world, the spiritual dimension, the sublime, etc. This is obviously an angelic inspiration that runs through all the best romantics in art, music, literature. But then there's another romanticism (the 'Byronic hero') of proud egotistical defiance, of human passions falsely exalted to quasi-divinity, of longing not just for the sublime but the sheer impossible and demented, of lionising sheer willpower without regard to morals, etc. But this should come as no surprise. In my opinion it's obvious that every great movement in history has its angelic and demonic side, which is what we'd expect if the cosmos really is spiritually divided by good and evil spirits. Even the Enlightenment rationalism had its angelic side (trying to establish some form of cross-cultural humane communication after the wars of religion; a universal concept of humanity; beginning to spread political rights and education to poorer members of society). I think anyone with their eyes open and a discerning mind can see the angelic movements and demonic movements in history, without giving in to over-simplifications and caricatures. Even in our own times where evil is embodied in these enormous, overpowering institutions, still there are men and women of good will more or less trying to steer the ship of humanity in the right direction. I'm neither an optimist nor a pessimist.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jack - I follow Coleridge, Steiner, Barfield and Arkle in disagreeing with you that Romanticism is properly about a backward looking desire for 'unity'. If Romanticism is to be valid, it needs to be looking *forward* and beyond materialism/ positivism. Barfield's 'Romanticism Comes of Age' essays are a way into this.