Sunday 31 July 2022

Should Christians hand-over their eternal salvation to... historians? Romantic Christianity at the cutting-edge

At the cutting-edge of experienced-life - 

The Church = What (some) Historians Say

All claims of knowledge reduce to intuition/s; but for traditionalist Christians, the baseline intuition is that The Truth is a matter of history; and history is known through the work of 'historians' - broadly conceived. 

Whenever a Christian makes a statement about the past, about what happened, and how things were (for example in the life of Jesus or The Church - whichever he adheres-to); in practice the implication is that 'history' defines truth. 

How can we know this history? 

Well, if we regard the church as primary, then in some sense we are saying that true knowledge of history lies outside our-selves. That we cannot be a Christian (or, at least, not properly) without this historical knowledge... 

Christianity is indeed an historical faith, intrinsically - based on Jesus making interventions in reality at some historical point. 

For the Christian this history is true. Yet true by what account, by what authority? 

Too often this is understood to mean that being a Christian means accepting the authority of (one or another bunch of) historians - as primary

Thus Christians put themselves in the position of being at the mercy of 'historians' (including scholars of many stripes - historical linguists, archaeologists, translators and editors, theological interpreters (the modern informing us about, and interpreting, the ancients) etc. 

According to church-primary Christianity; that which Christians are called upon to believe and the ways they are called upon to live, are rooted in historical work... yet are we really so confident about handing over our immortal souls to historians?

I Am Not! I am not at all confident about handing over my eternal salvation to the work of historians and other scholars. 

Why should I accept one selected and specifically interpreted set of historical statements, upon which to base my mortal life and resurrection - when there are so many and contradictory statements of history? 

To answer my own question: I would only accept a particular version of history when it has been validated at the deepest and most enduring level by what could be called intuition: when my deepest-possible, sustained reflection on the matter tells me that this particular history is true: even if not 100% true in every possible respect - that it is true in the ways that matter. 

What this means is that faith rests ultimately upon such intuitions - and therefore does Not rest upon any external source of knowledge. External knowledge must be checked against intuition. In different language: our faith needs to be confirmed by 'personal revelation' - as the Mormons term it. 

Such intuition is an ongoing process, which never ends in this mortal life; which is why our faith is a living and renewing thing - or else it dies. 

But having reached the insight that our faith rests upon this internal knowing - this personal revelation; then we may further recognize that this internal knowing is not restricted to confirming externally-derived information

When our personal revelations have confirmed that we are sons and daughters of God, and that the ascension of Jesus Christ made possible our communing and consultation of The Holy Ghost for knowledge and guidance...

Then we may realize that intuition (in this sense) may be a primary source of Christian knowledge and guidance - independent of external sources: independent of churches.  

And this insight and affirmation is (more-or-less) Romantic Christianity. It amounts to the personal revelation that we ought not to handover our external salvation to 'historians' and their like. 

To live (unconsciously, spontaneously) by external guidance was natural and necessary in the past, in many civilizations - but it is nowadays neither necessary: nor indeed possible.  

Modern Men cannot do what ancient Men universally did - and our choice is therefore between denial and acknowledgement of how we actually do live (when at our best): as autonomous agents, as choosing consciousnesses; guided by intuitions from our own divinity and the Holy Ghost...

We can only know such intuitions for our-selves - from our-selves - and in our actual circumstances; and these may guide us to a particular denomination and church; to particular persons and books and statements, and what we ought to think/say/do - Or Not, as the case may be. 

The aim being to bring us to affiliate with God and creation in the spiritual war; aiming after mortal death to follow Jesus Christ to resurrected life in Heaven. 

We can by such means - and at the cutting-edge of actually being-experienced life - learn those churches, teachings, 'histories' which are in-accord-with truth, and help these aims - and learn to detect and reject those which are not. 

Note added concerning Mormonism - a case study of personal revelation: 

The Book of Mormon was published in 1830. According to the scholarship of Terryl Givens; the BoM is broadly highly compatible with the Bible. Its production functioned mainly as a sign that new Christian revelations were being made by God, via a new prophet. But the BoM has one theological innovation, which is that individuals ought to seek personal revelations to confirm all significant and foundational Christian claims. 

For example the BoM itself served as an instrument of conversion. The missionary would ask an individual to read the book, then seek personal revelation as to its truth. If revelation confirmed the truth of the BoM, then this was (pretty much) sufficient for baptism - which might follow immediately or very soon. This process has striking similarities with the almost instant conversions described in the Gospels, and Acts of the Apostles - such as the Ethiopian Eunuch.     

But the explicit insistence on a need for personal revelation was new, and foundational of the new denomination.    
Yet, the scope of personal revelation was soon limited explicitly by top-down CJCLDS rulings; because low level church members were claiming major revelations about many and fundamental whole-church matters, and these were leading to schism and disruption. By revelation of the prophet Joseph Smith; the scope of revelation then became hierarchically limited, especially in relationship to church order, official theology, doctrine, practices etc. Only church officials were allowed valid revelations in accordance with the scope of their office; up to the church President (the prophet) who was the only person allowed fundamental and church-wide revelations. 

This meant that henceforth the Mormon church assumed primary authority over all fundamental matters, and that the church's teaching on all vital matters must be regarded as a unit; either to be accepted as a whole, or else rejected - but nobody had the right to pick and choose, modify, or add-to that unified body of mandatory beliefs. 

However necessary to the survival of the church were such hierarchical limitations on the scope of revelation; the validity of such limitation on the scope of personal revelation is itself subject to the need for confirmation by personal revelation. And that personal revelation may lead to the rejection of such limitations - and instead lead to the potential validity of personal revelations up-to and including fundamental matters of theology, doctrines, life-practices etc.

In a nutshell, if personal revelations of unlimited scope are allowed to all Mormon believers; this will lead to the destruction of top-down church authority. The Mormon Church (CJCLDS) would then become regarded in an expedient fashion, as being more or less helpful to theosis and salvation (in terms of its teachings and practices), and itself subject to the imperatives of personal revelation.  

This is my own attitude to Mormonism. I regard the BoM as true, and Joseph Smith as a real prophet, and Mormon theology and metaphysics as a major breakthrough (and revelation) in world historical terms. Yet I am not, and never have been, a CJCLDS member, nor have I ever attended services nor placed myself under church authority (indeed, I have attended selected Church of England services, and support some of these particular congregations). 

What I get from Mormonism is the ultimate validity and necessity of personal revelation - and I do not accept (for myself) the pragmatic necessity or primacy of 'official' revelations from the leadership. In other words, I see myself as having accepted, and benefitted from, Joseph Smith's original revelations concerning the primacy of personal revelations - without the later-added institutional restrictions. 

That this is a timely and correct course of action seems to be confirmed by the ongoing 'convergence' of the CJCLDS with several of the purposively-evil strategies of the global totalitarian establishment. In short, the Mormon church has already ceased to be a Christian church overall, and is engaged in its own further and further self-destruction by alliance with the demonic side in the spiritual war of this-world. 

If this is correct, then those who continue to maintain their own inability to have general, church-wide, unlimited personal revelations will be led into greater convergence, and more extreme and active alliance with Satan. 

This is one example of why the matter of personal revelation/ intuition/ direct-knowing/ heart-thinking - that is, of Romantic Christianity - is of such urgent importance. 


David Earle said...

When I was first introduced to Mormonism (and Christianity, again as an adult, beautifilly clarified by the missionaries) I was also asked to seek personal revelation. After some time I did believe it to be true, but I had no desire to become a Mormon or join the Church. I did however become a Christian.

It did not seem necessary to me that a loving God, who is primarily concerned with my salvation, would require my allegiance to a particular church or denomination, but would rather prefer a personal ongoing and unlimited relationship that was Jesus-centered and unhindered by any outside or second-hand influence.

I follow this path knowing that there is no eartly authority (no man, no government, no church) that supersedes my inner awareness of Christ who dwells within all men as "the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world."

This is quite freeing. And therefore regardless of what happens with any church or church system in the future, I am confident this will have no affect on my faith or trust in God.

Francis Berger said...

@ Bruce - Spot on. I agree.

@ David - Great comment! Ranks among the best I have ever encountered anywhere online.

Mia said...

I wondered recently if there were biblical examples of the evolution of consciousness that our host believes in, and it struck me that perhaps Christ's comment about His having "made clean" previously forbidden foods was part of this type of change. Was there a consciousness change that made us able to correctly prepare trickier animals like pigs and shellfish? Simply as a result of the elevation of reason? If so, early Christians must have undergone a similar shift as Romantic Christianity.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I completely agree with this and think it is probably the central defining characteristic of Romantic Christianity.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Thanks for that.

@Mia - Yes, I would agree that something of the sort happened. I tend to talk about the development, rather than evolution, of consciousness; because it is more like the development through childhood and adolescence towards adulthood.

But a difference is that the development of adult consciousness must be consciously chosen - it does not 'just happen' like biological development does.

And in our civilization there is a refusal of the choice of adult consciousness - instead most people stay in adolescence, while a few try, and fail, to return to pre-adolescence.

AnteB said...

I don´t think that the traditionalists have even tried addressing the question of development of consciouness fairly. I´m not saying that everyone needs to immerse themselves in the works of Steiner or Barfield but I don´t think they have given a fair account of what Romantics (perhaps especially you Charlton) mean by it.

I have read Barfields "Romanticism Comes of Age" this summer and often struggles to understand the ways people in the past could have experienced the world even though Barfield often describes it in a livid manner (and of course one cannot "prove" such claims). Nevertheless I really believe there is a profound difference in consciousness between the past and the present.

Even if one does not follow or agree with Steiner/Barfield one should be able to see that almost 400 years creeping scientic materialism/atheism have profoundly shaped the way man thinks about and expericences the world and that this would have major consequences for religion (and all manner of other areas, such as institutions like the monarchy). CS Lewis could see it, I believe, even though he would disagree with his friend about much.

Donald said...

Dr. Charlton,
Your comments on the CJCLDS are interesting to me because they point to an inherent tension: either a church establishes hierarchy/authority and has a community of believers in the doctrine or it preaches individual revelation and it is unclear what the community of believers is.
I’m sympathetic to what I perceive to be the Romantic Christian point of view and think the development of consciousness is critical to understanding where we are at snd are going. But how do we maintain a community of believers in Romantic Christianity? Or are we meant to develop beyond that?

Bruce Charlton said...

@AB - "I don´t think that the traditionalists have even tried addressing the question of development of consciousness"

No. There seems to be an assumption that evolution is being used to mean superiority; when it means something more like maturation. I think it is also necessary to recognize that this progressive change in human consciousness is part of the divine plan - which is something that Barfield doesn't make clear enough IMO.

Because I believe in a pre-mortal (spirit) life; I think that the nature of evolution is to do with creating conditions suitable for the needs of different kinds of souls.

(Steiner and Barfield regarded it as a consequence of the development of reincarnating spirits - due to their multiple prior experiences; but I don't think that view of reincarnation is correct; as I've sometimes argued here:

Bruce Charlton said...

@Donald - "But how do we maintain a community of believers in Romantic Christianity?"

As we see all forms of human institution (including churches) being assimilated to an evil global bureaucracy - I think the answer becomes clearer that the community should be based on inter-personal love - i.e. the family, and whenever Christian groups can develop and cohere with the kind of personal relationships and commitment that families have quite often possessed.

I think this is contained in the Fourth Gospel - - but the historical church took a different path, perhaps because it then fitted the then nature of Men (whose thinking was then much more groupish, immersive, un-conscious, less-free at the individual level); and this large-scale cohesion and integration with the military/ administrative rulers made Christianity stronger in a worldly sense.

But I would say churches were (at root) never more than a potentially expedient compromise with the world and Men's natures - and this was why they have been so variable in the effectiveness/ harmfulness at different times and places. i.e. In practice churches were necessary - but now, in practice, do more harm than good overall, by linking Christianity organizationally (through bureaucratic regulations of many kinds) to an evil-motivated world regime.

A said...

What you describe has become necessary and how Christians actually live, even if ignored. There are countless Churches, and even within denominations like Catholicism a variety of options based on how traditional/liberal your personal allegiances lie. Generally the hierarchy is regarded as not powerful or heeded for various different reasons among liberals and traditionalists...

Our discernment is necessarily coming first, though we're not going far enough with it.