Wednesday 15 November 2023

'Trad' Christians: arguing from a position of weakness (by their own standards)

Just an observation, and something that (I believe) honest Trad Christians need to be aware of in themselves...

Almost any traditional form of Christianity (whether Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Calvinist, Mormon, or whatever) can mount a very deadly attack on... 'the other guy'. 

In other words; once you have accepted a coherent set of theological premises; you can use these as an effective basis to attack any other religion, denomination - or no religion. 

So long as you stick to your own premises, and refuse to acknowledge these premises as being metaphysical assumptions that you-yourself have chosen to adopt -- you can easily impress yourself at the rigour and vigour of your own deadly dialectic! 

You can even convince yourself that effective argument from your chosen-but-denied-assumed premises is a validation of these premises; meaning they must be true (i.e. necessarily true for all Men, at all times and places). 

You can impress and convince yourself, perhaps; but it does not impress other people; because they do not share your chosen-premises, and they can see your baseline assumptions for what they are...  

So, this kind of Trad Christian may be smug and confident; but to anyone else outside the assumptions he will appear a deluded fanatic: someone who attacks all the time because he must; and he must always attack because has no effective defence

To the outsider; this kind of Trad Christian is just another example of the New Age mantra of: "it works for me". 

The idea that truth is whatever works... 

This is so, because no type of Christianity works as a whole; none are 'doing well'; no churches are large and powerful and growing... and also Christian

Therefore the Trad Christian is, in effect, one who tries (but fails) to assert that because "it works for me", therefore "it is objectively and necessarily true for everybody". 

My point is that the validity of Trad Christianity is only from-within, and it "works" only at the individual (or small group) level.   

In other words; the validity of Trad Christianity is of the exact same type as the validity of Romantic Christianity - that is, Trad Christianity is valid insofar as it motivates and sustains the individual to be and remain Christian. 

In yet other words; Trad Christianity is invalidated by the same standards from which it is derived. 

...That is, Trad Christianity is implicitly an assertion of the primacy of the validity of an institutional church - yet the corruption and weakness of all churches-as-institutions is the strongest argument against Trad Christianity.  

I call upon Trad Christians explicitly to acknowledge (to themselves) this fact (as it seems) - and its implications. I mean the fact that here-and-now, 2023 in The West - traditional Christianity works (when it does work) at an individual level primarily; and there is no honest basis for basing argument upon the publicly objective validity of any specific form of church, institution, theology, Biblical interpretation or other set of assumptions. 

All effective Christianity Just Is rooted in individual discernment and responsibility; and we need to be honest enough to acknowledge this - or else we are living a lie built on a delusion. 

Aggressively ranting and raving, or even manic self-congratulation and boasting, does no more objective good than (maybe) operating as a form of self-psychotherapy, intended to conceal-from oneself a fundamental personal dishonesty.  


A said...

I just want to clarify that I'm understanding correctly. The background is that historically one could be raised in a Christian culture and environment and be a good-Christian by simply following where they were (whether Orthodox, Anglican, Roman Catholic, etc.), but we're now in an environment where all institutions have been effectively corrupted and traditional denominations are in the same position as an independent, non-institutional Christian, who must constantly discern what is correct or incorrect.

That makes sense to me, as even within denominations that is *very* clearly where we're at. Various trad factions argue about who is closest to the truth, the amount of allegiance required to authority, whether the authority is even valid, which authority is valid and not, who is a bad "Trad" Christian because X. It is a quite sad state of affairs.

That said, hasn't it always been a bit like that? Various leaders vying for who is valid, various sects having the full truth, splits, branches, etc.?

Bruce Charlton said...

@MrA - Your description sounds like a reasonable representation of part of what I was trying to say.

"hasn't it always been a bit like that?"

Leaving aside "a bit", which is of course true - it seems absolutely obvious to me that things have Never been as bad as now. It is so obvious that I can't argue it - either one sees the obvious, or is mentally blinded against it (i.e. the obvious is excluded by assumption), in which case argument is futile.

As just one instance: Have all the churches in the world ever willingly, enthusiastically, shut themselves down for many months (and with no end date) as happened in 2020? No, of course not - and the idea would have been inconceivable for many times and places.

It was/ is blatantly evident that the churches do not believe their own core dogmas and doctrines. Such stark materialism, such anti-spiritual-ism, was not even mentally possible to Men of the past, for reasons that I suggest in the next part of the post.

Shannon said...

Excellent post, and very timely for me. Thank you.

Francis Berger said...

" no honest basis for basing argument upon the publicly objective validity of any specific form of church, institution, theology, Biblical interpretation or other set of assumptions."

There really isn't, is there?

Yet the fanatics insist that there is and must be such publicly objective validity of church, assumptions, etc. because without that people "are just" making stuff up and so forth.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank ... Hence (I presume) the tendency for compensatory macho-posturing aggression.