Tuesday 15 November 2022

Radical Pessimism and Hope from Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft is one of the most lucid and engaging (and most prolific!) Christian apologists of recent years - writing from a Roman Catholic (convert, from Protestant) perceptive.

The above is a five minute video that begins with some personal reflections, then moves onto Kreeft's concise evaluation of where things in general are going. 

Kreeft is absolutely convinced that things are going to get much worse, catastrophically so; that in essence The Book of Revelation (i.e. the End Times) is upon us; and that (materially speaking) there is nothing that we can do to stop it.

I think there is now a division between mainstream Christian 'conservatives' who believe that things are not irreversibly bad, and therefore can-and-should be reformed and catastrophe averted -- and those 'radical pessimists' such as Kreeft (and myself) who believe that things will not be reformed.

Note the asymmetry: mainstream conservative focus on evaluating what might be done; radical pessimists on what actually will be done: this derives from a focus on possibilities, versus a focus on inferred motivations.  

Conservative mainstreamers are focused about socio-political schemes of reform which seem to show potential promise of alleviating or reversing particular areas of decline and corruption. 

These schemes may be concentrated on improvements within existing institutions, or may attempt to found new institutions to replace them. 

And - this is important - the intent and belief behind such socio-political activity is that, if effective, it would be able to prevent, reverse and/or revise the impending catastrophe.  

But radical pessimists believe that it is too late. Whatever theoretical possibilities may exist in particular areas - the sum of human motivational corruption in so many domains, in so many nations; means that people do not fundamentally wish to stop the impending catastrophe.

For radical pessimists; the problem is, in other words, too deep to be solved by socio-political action; because the problem is at the level of metaphysics and motivation.

In other words: the problem lies in the world-conception and primary desires of too-many people (including a large majority of the wealthiest, most powerful, educated and high-status people)

Far-too-many of those with capability to effect (and to block) change, see the world falsely, and want wrong things; conversely, they reject those understandings and goals that would be necessary to prevent catastrophe and reverse the trend to evil. 

So, whatever the theoretical possibilities may be; the requite multiple-simultaneous reforms simply will not happen: few people want Good things to happen, and a large majority actively want them Not to happen. 

And even when/if socio-political reforms do happen in particular domains; they will not lead to net-Good; because too many Men's motivations and desires are too corrupted - so that Good policy becomes just-another stimulus towards greater evil. 

The final part of this short video is concerned with how - despite solid this-worldly pessimism - Christians can (and must) remain hope-full. 

Kreeft provides one of the standard answers of Christian believers in the Omni-God theology; but my answer would have been different and much simpler.  

My answer is that Jesus made it possible that anyone who loved and truly-desired to follow him, would attain eternal resurrected life in Heaven. And further, that our love for others is of real benefit in helping them to the same goal of salvation*. 

We are meant to be confident of our salvation; and we can be confident - in so far as we personally are sure of our desire for salvation: our own salvation is our own responsibility; and lies in our own hands. 

I suspect such confidence in salvation will be of crucial value for many people in these End Times, in enabling us to Live in Hope; when honest realism suggests that it is too late to avert the coming Apocalypse. 

Thus convinced pessimism becomes compatible with confident Hope. 

*We cannot, of course, compel anyone else to accept the gift of salvation - salvation is a personal choice that cannot be compelled - not even by God. But we can - by our personal love - make a difference (at the spiritual level, by direct spiritual apprehension) to the way in which other people understand and evaluate this choice. 

Note Added: I believe that the Christian Conservative stance is no longer valid, and will not survive - indeed, I can see, in real time, a proportion of Christian Conservatives continually apostatizing (as evidenced by their public failure of one or more the accumulating Litmus Tests, aka. by converging-with the agenda of mainstream secular globalist leftism). For instance; recently many Christian Conservatives failed the Voting Litmus Test; as evidenced by their behaviour during US or UK elections, and their partisan-mainstream political commentary generally. 


ben said...

Happened to watch this video yesterday

David Earle said...

I have great admiration for Kreeft. I don't recall how I discovered him, but when I was first becoming a Christian, his writings and speeches were what I consumed the most. I didn't know much at the time, but I knew that man was speaking truth, and he really helped connect the dots. But I will say I no longer share his omni-god perspective either.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I have read a lot of Kreeft's work - https://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/search?q=kreeft - I think I discovered him via his books on Tolkien and CS Lewis; and his version of Pascal's Pensees was very valuable, at one point. Of course, I have moved a long way from his theology; but I certainly regard him as A Good Thing.

I am not sure how he is dealing with Francis I and the gross apostasy of the official RCC (as revealed, conclusively, by the birdemic-peck responses...

Kreeft was really a Chestertonian-style apologist; operating on the assumption that The Roman Church was itself real Christianity - and his main goal being to get people to be orthodox and obedient Catholics.

Yet Kreeft surely can't believe this is enough nowadays, in the way that it was when Chesterton was writing. In 2022 a Catholic who was merely obedient to Orthodoxy defined here-and-now by the Pope/ Magisterium/ Bishops would, on average, Not be a real Christian.

But I don't know whether Kreeft has been explicit in his public statements about how modern Catholics absolutely need to use personal discernment in a primary way, to navigate not just *to* the RCC, but also *within* the RCC - something that was only seldom necessary in the past.

ben said...

I wonder if one of the functions of the C02=warming idea is to distract from the Sun's changes

Bruce Charlton said...

@ben - Well, I would have supposed that the primary function of pretending that CO2 drives climate is that this provides an excuse to control all animals and plants. But clearly the sun drives earth's climate, as you say.

Of course, the sun remains almost completely unpredictable (apart from its 11/22 year 'heartbeat' of sunspots, known for centuries) - which I believe is because the sun is a Being, and has agency.