Wednesday 18 January 2023

All Christians, nowadays - in practice - distinguish between Christianity and The Church (but mostly unconsciously, and half-heartedly)

In a world where corruption is endemic among the major "Christian" churches - who, overall and where it matters - now serve the Satanic agenda of globalist-leftist-leftism; in such a world, all serious Christians exercise discernment in terms of the church of which they are members.

(And, even more so, when they are Not affiliated to any particular church.) 

Nowadays: the only Christians are discerning Christians

(As of 2023 and in The West; un-discerning obedience to church - to any church - is a fast-track to subversion, corruption, inversion - and damnation.) 

This discernment implicitly depends on a distinction between "Christianity" and "The Church" - and this is true whichever church is being followed. 

Sometimes, this distinction is explained in terms of the Mystical church versus Institutional church; yet, this concept also implies that Christianity is something different from the here-and-now actuality of any particular church. 

Such discernment is evident whenever church instructions/ teaching/ interpretations etc. are disobeyed/ ignored/ explained-away for principled Christian reasons. 

But not many Christians realize that in doing this very necessary discernment, they are - mostly implicitly - asserting that real Christianity is significantly distinct from the church. And, because implicit, this process is largely unconscious; and because unconscious, the implications tend to be missed - and discernment is only half-hearted. This often leads into a kind of sleep-walking toward damnation. That is; to changing sides in the spiritual war of this world, and supporting the side that rules much of the world (and all of The West), and is against God and divine Creation.  

Therefore; it seems of vital importance that Christians distinguish consciously and explicitly between Christianity and "The Church" - and this necessity applies whatever "The Church" is for that person. 

Once such a distinction has been acknowledged, then a process can begin in which a clearer and more accurate understanding of Christianity can develop. 

Because, typically, a great deal of what Christians initially regard as Christianity is not so; but is instead contradictory, or superfluous, or historically contingent. 

Developing this vital understanding of Christianity begins with whatever sources a person has already encountered: for instance; Scripture, tradition, church teachings, theology, philosophy, devotional sermons and books etc etc... 

There is no prior-evident limit to what might turn-out to be of value in clarifying the true nature of Christianity. So there will probably begin some kind of quest for understanding, and this may lead to novel sources. 

I would guess that convenient availability of sources is one factor, and that (over time, given willingness and intent) this will be shaped by divine providence. 

What is being sought is the true reality of Christianity distinct from any particular source of external knowledge  - and the tools of the quest may be summarized as our intuitive evaluations plus the Holy Ghost-guided ability directly to know truth (given correct motivations); supported by our innate ability to recognize and value coherence, and to discard incoherence.  

As I said above; I think all real Christians are at least part-way along this path - but have not accepted the full implications of what they are already-doing by living in accordance with their (very necessary) discernments.

They simply need to be honest, clear and explicit about what they are already-doing; and follow it through to the necessary and desirable conclusions... 

Whatever these conclusions may turn-out to be. 


Francis Berger said...

I wholeheartedly agree. Some church "true believers" have recently begun to call discernment a heresy. As far as I can tell, the two most prominent obstacles to honest diescernment are humility and obedience.

Most church true believers consider church to be the keeper and steward of truth. Hence, knowing truth is impossible outwith church. Direct knowing is the prideful illusion of a fallen, doomed, sinful, wicked, finite creature, and so forth.

Also, most church true believers are terrified of freedom and agency, and they are more than happy to surrender these to church authority with the justification that doing so somehow brings them closer to truth.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Francis - I am, of course, here reorganizing, and re-explaining to myself, an insight that we (and William Wildblood) are all trying to work-through in our blogs.

So far as I can tell; the genuinely "church true believers" are no longer Christian...

While those Christians who regard themselves as "church true believers" are deluded (or dishonest with themselves) - because they are in truth using discernment... but unconsciously, or to some degree dishonestly. These need to become honestly-conscious of what they are doing, and what is indeed keeping them Christian; and then consciously and conscientiously *continue to do it* - and follow the process to where it leads: i.e. towards a clearer grasp of Christianity-in-itself.

Francis Berger said...

@ Bruce - Your point is indisputable. I suppose the larger point I was making is nestled in the "church true believer" term. As far as I have been able to determine, church true believers sidestep the obvious cognitive dissonance by adopting a form of cognitive blindness. They package their discernment as humble obedience to some doctrine or other because it is cognitively impossible for them to separate churches or other externals from Christianity.

Of course, this probably only applies to those who are largely unconscious of their discernment. I don't know what it would take to break through to those who are intentionally dishonest with themselves.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - The psychology of this is very interesting.

I think I am especially aware of it because I was such a late convert, and because I was already unusually self-aware about the basis of knowledge from having been (in my own practice) a philosopher of science. That is, as soon as I began practicing as a scientist - doing my own research (i.e. starting my doctorate) I was extremely aware of the ways in which scientific knowledge was constructed; from the bottom up level of how data points were generated by measurement on blood (and all the many assumptions and personal decisions that went into even that not-so-simple thing); and then how these measurements were assembled and analysed to draw conclusions.

When I became a Christian it was in a very self-aware fashion, being aware of the assumptions I was making - and that these were assumptions. And then, the business of choosing a church. Perhaps because I was already very aware of, and impressed by, Mormon Christianity even before I converted - as well as the Church of England; this never seemed straightforward.

Even withing the CofE I very rapidly (and with dismay!) became aware of vast differences between individual churches near me (and between the CofE traditions) which I needed to choose between. The hot issues were ordination of women, and attitude to homosexuality - and there were all possible combinations of yes-yes, yes-no, no-yes and no-no - and I needed to understand the basis of these disagreements, and choose between them. Simple 'obedience' was not an option, because I had to choose what to obey - so I had to try and discern why I was obeying, and then this led to recognizing that, under such a situation, 'obedience' is not an honest description of what I was doing, at least not from a traditional perspective.

If one is choosing what to obey, and if this choosing never goes away but keeps recurring again and again (as I found to be the case) then is this really obedience?

I found that I could not escape this - not even when I decided to become Eastern Orthodox; which I supposed had overcome this problem by adhering to tradition. Yet, when I started on this path, it was the same thing all over again!

So this is something I am solidly sure about - both theoretically and form multiple personal experiences.

However, this business of being aware of it is clearly different. When I was a scientist, most of my colleagues managed to convince themselves that they were objectively reporting the real world; despite that they needed to make dozens of judgments to do their work. But they just handed over responsibility for these judgments to someone else, or some external source; and they did them out of pure habit - and so were able to believe that it was all necessary and inevitable and could not be done any other way.

Even when this 'way' was frequently changing, as it always did, this was taken to mean that we are right Now and everybody in the past (who did it differently) was always wrong and cannot be trusted. Now is objectively and eternally valid; until 'progress' happens. For scientists, "we are always right" and also "always getting better".

In other words, obedience to external authority rules in science, as in religion - even when this leads to incoherence.