Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Maybe a Spark

 

Beginning with the Peterson, Pageau, Vervaeke and Baron conversation, mentions of Thomas Aquinas began to enter the room.  Since then, this has been happening more often.  It happened several times in this conversation between Matt Fradd and Jonathan Pageau.

Pageau is famously known for talking about patterns.  I have noted that patterns, in this sense, is not any different than purpose.  I find that patterns are nothing more than purpose in action – as long as one recognizes that inherent in every being is a purpose common with other beings of a like type.  Hence…patterns.

But now Pageau is making the connection overtly.  He uses the words purpose and teleology.  He has often mentioned this idea of a return to Aquinas.  But, just as in the conversation with the four, hosted by Peterson, no direct mention in this conversation with Fradd of natural law.  And this time, I lay the blame of Fradd, who cannot be oblivious to the connection (his channel is called Pints with Aquinas, for goodness’ sakes).

But…baby steps.  I have waited several years for the conversation to at least crack the natural law door open.  I believe it is inevitable that eventually those involved in this conversation will come to find the common point for all of them is to be found in the natural law ethic. 

Through it, the question of where we should aim is answered; the question of how we should act is answered; the question of who we are is answered.  These are the questions being asked in the discussion, and natural law points to answers for each of these.

Living a life in accord with the natural law ethic gives meaning in life – in other words, the cure for the meaning crisis.

--------------------------------------

Jonathan Pageau gave a lecture for an event put together by the Montreal Jung Society.  During the Q&A, he was asked “How would you work with the problem of inclusive / exclusive categories in these times?  Where do the movements of cancel culture or Black Lives Matter feed, or how to make sense of these movements?”  Dangerous and loaded questions. 

The entire section is about twelve minutes long, and is worth listening to directly.  Pageau replies:

One of the things we are seeing is out of control versions of this identification system or this system of communion.    Woke culture understands the problem of exclusion.  The problem is, they want to account for everything.  They want everything to fit. 

I would say except for straight white Christians, whether male or female.

The problem is, that’s impossible.  It’s even a dangerous thing.  There are lots of ancient traditions that speak to this: in Jewish law, you have to leave a fringe on your vestment, or you have to leave the corners of the field untilled for the strangers.

All of these patterns make clear that you can’t have a system that is both coherent and complete at the same time.  You can’t.

Perhaps you can if you consider human beings as perfectly interchangeable cogs in a machine.  (Hint: meaning crisis.)

What’s happened is that people want to make inclusivity the only value, because of the problem of exclusion. 

See my earlier post on Pageau’s thoughts on a speech by Tim Cook of Apple.

And so what happens, and what I am going to say is going to seem radical to some, what we are seeing in this process is the actual destruction of the world.  This type of thinking can actually destroy the world. 

Wait, don’t despair.  He sees an alternative:

Monday, December 6, 2021

Nihilism

 

That there is no truth; that there is no absolute state of affairs – no ‘thing-in-itself.’  This alone is Nihilism, and of the most extreme kind.

-          Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age, by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose

In 1962, the young Eugene Rose undertook to write a monumental chronicle of the abandonment of Truth in the modern age.  Of the hundreds of pages of material he compiled for this work, only the present essay, on Nihilism, has come down to us in completed form.

-          From the back cover

Although he was not Fr. Rose when he wrote this work (he was still Eugene), this is how I will refer to him throughout my review of this book.

Nihilism, Fr. Rose offers, is the belief that there is no Absolute Truth; all truth is relative.  The heart of this philosophy is expressed most clearly by Nietzsche and a character of Dostoyevsky: ‘God is dead, therefore man becomes God and everything is possible.’

Keep in mind, he wrote this before the nihilism of the 1960s came to full blossom – for which I will point to 1967 as the milestone year: the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album (which I label the start of their drug-induced era, whether or not they were taking hallucinogenics), and the release of the first Pink Floyd album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (who only had a drug-induced era).

Fr. Rose regularly turns to Hitler, Bolshevism (both Lenin and Stalin), and the Dadaist attack on art as examples of this nihilism.  He looks at poets, revolutionaries like Bakunin, and what he labels “prophets” like Nietzsche.  But he describes all of these as “the spectacular surface of the problem of Nihilism.”  These are just extreme examples.

We have examples around us every day, in everyday people.  Fr. Rose does not excuse them as innocent victims, because “No one, in the last analysis, serves Satan against his will.”

Nihilism has become so pervasive in our time (his time, almost sixty years ago), that there is no longer any front on which it may be fought.  It is deeply engrained in the hearts and minds of all men living today; even those who believe they are fighting it are using nihilism’s own weapons.

Few of nihilism’s even most ardent opponents believe in the possibility that there is Absolute Truth – objective, unchanging Truth.  Even many of its ardent opponents will lean on relative truth – some truths are better than others; some truths lead to less evil than others.  We use arbitrary scales to judge the relative truth of different truths.

Some will perhaps object…that we have set our net too wide; that we have exaggerated the prevalence of Nihilism….

I am certain that in the early 1960s this was true; I am even more certain that even a few short years ago I am not sure that I understood this to be true.  But Fr. Rose (Eugene) understood it several years before Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

Fr. Rose will describe the nihilist mentality, offer a sketch of its historical development, and then probe more deeply into its meaning and historical program.

“Relative truth” is primarily represented, for our age, by the knowledge of science….”

Wow!  Consider that.  Our most supposedly objective discipline offers only relative truths.

It is always discursive, contingent, qualified, always expressed in “relation” to something else, never standing alone, never categorical, never “absolute.”

An honest scientist recognizes that the science is never settled.  In other words, science never arrives at Absolute Truth.  It is always standing on something that is subject to challenge, and to have that challenge be successful.

…the absolute cannot be attained by means of the relative.

“All truth is empirical,” the scientist will say; but this is a metaphysical statement.  “All truth is relative”; but this statement is absolute.  This is the world science offers, and in its proper place, it is a valuable world.  But when placed at the top of the pyramid, it falls short of the standard set by those who have transformed science into scientism. 

…the first principles of any system of knowledge cannot be arrived at through the means of that knowledge itself, but must be given in advance; they are the object, not of scientific demonstration, but of faith.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Malignant Narcissism

Human nature would not allow them to kill their own children … if they did not expect some reward for what they were doing or if they did not believe that they were sending their children to a better place.

Bernabé Cobo, 1653

Today, you can scratch that “believe that they were sending their children to a better place” part.  They are just after a reward….

Narcissism: pathological self-absorption… characterized by an inflated self-image and…an unusual coolness and…by the tendency to take others for granted or to exploit them.

Among the different types, malignant narcissists are by far the most harmful to others. … [They have] a poor sense of self and lack of empathy.

Olympic gold medalist Crissy Perham talks about why she joined the Supreme Court fight over abortion

In a moment reflecting the growth of activism within women's sports, athletes including Megan Rapinoe, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Sue Bird argued in the amicus brief that abortion rights have helped advance women's sports and that future athletes would suffer without those protections.

Read that enough times to let it sink in.  No concern about the suffering of the unborn child, but plenty of concern about the self – not for safety or anything; just a hindrance to playing sports.

If the State compelled women athletes to carry pregnancies to term and give birth, it could derail women's athletic careers, academic futures, and economic livelihoods at a large scale."

Or, maybe, don’t spread your legs.

After this introduction, there follows an interview of Crissy Perham.  Following are some of her comments:

I think the reason it's really important that I speak out and share my story is there's such a finite time to be the elite athlete you want to be.

It’s all about me, while being most harmful to others.

She became pregnant at 19, then had an abortion. 

I was a good kid but I had a car and I really liked to party and I really liked my friends, and that was my focus.

She was a good kid who liked to party (to my understanding, code for “get drunk”) and get pregnant. 

It’s all about me, while I exploit others.

My mom and dad had done the same thing. They'd gotten married in college and my mom had me a couple years later.

Lucky for her that her mother didn’t want to play sports.

I did not want to give up being a college athlete and it was kind of another huge spotlight on my inner workings.

It’s all about me, while being most harmful to others.

There was no way I was going to give up any of that.

It’s all about me and my lack of empathy.

It was not an easy decision. I had been a volunteer at Planned Parenthood. I had already watched friends go through that.

It seems her life choices prior to getting pregnant primed her for her life choices after getting pregnant.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Is This the Worst Time Ever…

 

…for the Church.

Taken from a clip of a longer discussion with Ralph Martin at Pints With Aquinas.  The entire clip is six minutes, and it is taken from a much longer conversation which I may treat in the future.

Matt Fradd, the host of the channel, begins by offering: There have been many times in Church history where there has been confusion and sin in the Church, even the pope.  What does Martin say?

Is this the worst time ever?  I don’t know, but we do have some unique things right now.  We have confusion in the Church happening at the same time as we have this incredible array of the powers of this world against Christ and His Church. 

Confusion in the Church has happened often.  It hasn’t happened often at the same time as society also wanting to crush the Church.

Martin then goes to Psalms 2: 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed….

All the levers of power, culture, entertainment, even professional sports going woke and persecuting people for not going along with the global elite agenda.  Education….

He speaks to public schools.  Of course, we cannot forget the universities.

I don’t think you can explain how quick and how thorough it’s been without supernatural power.

Ephesians 6:12 is offered, a verse I have leaned on many times when considering our situation today: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Those are instruments of spiritual powers which are incredibly intelligent and incredibly hate filled toward Christ.

This is exactly the theme I have written on here.  We are governed by evil men doing the work of Satan.  By governed, I don’t refer to only state actors.  Church leaders are also featured, and Jesus warned us of such as these.

Martin then takes aim at his own Catholic Church; he is concerned that the Church is being lured into one that is useful to and supportive of this earthly agenda: “lured into a chaplain to the U.N. or a chaplain to the global reset.”  He is, of course, speaking about the current pope and many in the Church who support his agenda. 

Martin then cites Pope Benedict – who seems to be the go-to pope for those less-than-enamored with the current pope:

One hundred years ago, everyone would have considered it absurd to speak of a homosexual marriage.  Today, one is being excommunicated by society if one opposes it.  The same applies to abortion or the creation of human beings in the laboratory.

He then offers that there was recently an announcement about blending mouse cells and human cells.  The Abolition of Man….

Returning to Benedict:

Modern society is in the middle of formulating an anti-Christian creed.  If one opposes it, one is being punished by society with excommunication. 

Benedict concludes: This must be countered by prayer.  What a lovely happenstance that Benedict was exchanged for Francis just in time….

Monday, November 29, 2021

An Excellent Conversation, Part II

 

Part one can be found here.

NB: I have been giving some thought as to just how “excellent” this conversation was; time and reflection have a way of filtering.  I think I am downgrading it to a very good conversation, but one lacking a couple of very important points – and, perhaps, the single most important point.  But I will come to all of this at the end, in the Epilogue of this post.

In this post, I continue with my review of a conversation held by Jordan Peterson to include Bishop Robert Baron, John Vervaeke, and Jonathan Pageau.  This portion of the dialogue begins here.  The first topic is the use of psychedelics, with Peterson asking, given the failure of the Church to attract people, what about it? 

Now, before continuing, a different conversation between Jonathan Pageau and two authors of a book about Peterson just posted a few days ago, and they discussed this topic of psychedelics.  The two men, Christopher Kaczor and Matthew Petrusek, are Catholic professors at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, and, also, Word on Fire fellows.  Word on Fire is the outreach of Bishop Baron.

The discussion regarding psychedelics begins here.  Pageau introduces it by noting that in the last few months, Peterson has been talking a lot about psychedelics.  Following are comments in response to this:

Psychedelics put feeling before love.  A proper ordering places love before feeling – if we properly love, we will develop proper feelings for that which we love.  It is the difference of experience in a passive way and an embodied experience.

“It’s cheating!” “You want the Resurrection without the Cross.” 

Pageau describes a discussion Peterson had with “a couple of mushroom guys.”  For two hours, they just talked about the experience.  After two hours, Peterson asked, “so what is it about?”  And one of the guys answered, “you realize that God doesn’t exist, and it’s just you.”

Pageau: Yeah, that’s it.  Solipsism.  The flip side of that ecstasy is despair, and the difference is paper thin.  You end up alone, and that’s terror.  Like the lowest level of Dante’s hell, each one frozen, alone, in ice.

Given that my experience with psychedelics is limited to listening to early Pink Floyd, Yes, and Sgt. Pepper’s, I won’t say much.  However, it sounds like religion for the atomized individual – an extension of libertarianism individualism taken to places for which it is not designed.

In any case, returning to the reaction in the subject video, neither Pageau or Baron reacted favorably on this topic.  Bishop Baron replies:

I would be more at home using the wisdom tradition, as you [Peterson] have been doing.  We have our problems, certainly.  Some of it came from the scandals, and some of it came from an exaggerated attempt to be relevant to society and dumb down our language to echo the culture.

How many times in church has dialogue been cut off – just believe, don’t ask questions.  It seems to me that this is the opposite of what the Apostle Paul did on Mars Hill, where he engaged the philosophers.  We are to be prepared to answer with reason regarding the hope we hold.  Continuing, Vervaeke offers:

I will ask my students: where do you go for information?  The internet.  Where do you go for knowledge?  The classroom, etc.  Where do you go for wisdom?  There is deafening silence.  And wisdom is not optional. 

And this ties back to the move toward nominalism.  The words; propositions.  Pageau (the opposite of a nominalist) offers:

We have had several centuries in Christianity to focus on proving the history.  But this wisdom tradition is all there – we just need to go back and get people to connect to these experiences.

Bishop Baron then owned that this was the case in the Catholic church and his young training, that the focus was on the words, on propositions.  And then, a real zinger from Pageau:

In the Orthodox Church, they say, if the sermon is more than fifteen minutes, it’s pride.  Keep your sermons as short as possible. 

Which pretty much counts every Protestant service I have attended.  (To be clear, I am not advocating Pageau’s view, but I understand the sentiment.)

Propositional understanding is fine, but it is to be participatory.  You enter into the church, you have a space structured as the ontological hierarchy of being, and then you see these images that are patterns and are revealing to you these mysteries that are beyond words. 

I have described my feelings in such a church before.  Just the space is worshipful, with Christ Pantocrator on the ceiling of the dome, and surrounded by the icons of a hundred saints and prophets, all joined by the parishioners – a real image of the Kingdom of God.  But, I keep in mind…there are many words in a liturgical service, and the words are rather important…even propositional.

Friday, November 26, 2021

An Excellent Conversation

 

Jordan Peterson hosted a discussion to include Bishop Robert Barron, John Vervaeke, and Jonathan Pageau.  This conversation was held over two months ago, on September 10.  The video is entitled The 4 Horsemen of Meaning.  I will say, the interaction of Peterson here was much better than when he spoke one-on-one with Vervaeke – when Peterson was hyper-activated and interrupted often; the interaction between Peterson and Barron was also much better, as it seemed the two of them better understood each other than the last time I saw the two of them together.

I do believe the conversation would have been greatly aided by including Paul VanderKlay, somewhat because he brings a Protestant view to a conversation that includes the Catholic and Orthodox, but especially because he has a way of taking the high level, intellectual conversations and breaking these down into understandable chunks for the masses (myself included).

The conversation started slowly.  I think four people trying to feel each other out, and, especially, when one of the four, Bishop Baron, is outside of the circle of these conversations – he does not have the history or familiarity with the others.  In any case, from about the 1 hour, 20-minute mark and on, it was a terribly engaging conversation.

The conversation goes for two hours.  It is too much to cover in one post, so I will split it into two.

The conversation begins with Peterson asking the others to give an explanation of meaning.  Baron offers a clean and simple definition: a purposive pursuit of a value.  This definition helps me to clarify what is meant when I use or hear the phrase “meaning crisis.”

We live in a world with no objective truth when it comes to action, behavior, ethics – in other words, we have abandoned the natural law ethic.  We are each left to choose our own highest value, and every choice is equally valid – we are not guided by the purpose for which we are made. 

But what does this mean in practice?  I have no fixed target at which to aim, the target is of my making.  Any target I choose is no better or worse than any other target I could have chosen.  In fact, there is no such things as “better” or “worse.”

In other words, there might as well not even be a target.  But without a target, there is no purposive pursuit.  The pursuit is aimless – a perfect picture for one shooting without a target.  What is the meaning of pursuit if the thing one is pursuing is meaningless?  Hence, the meaning crisis.

They turn to addressing why the meaning crisis has become so problematic.  Vervaeke offers the following, which he also puts to his students:

We have a scientific worldview in which science and the scientists and their meaning-making have no proper ontological place.  We are the hole – science – we are the black hole in this worldview that dominates.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who wanted a little more explanation about what Vervaeke means.  Peterson asked:I am still unclear about that.  What is this black hole?”  Vervaeke offers:

What I mean is: does science exist?  If it is, what kind of entity is it?  Tell me, just using chemistry, physics, or biology – using just those – tell me what science is.  And tell me how it has the status to make the claims that it does.  And tell me how science is related to meaning and truth.  And how do meaning and truth fit into the scientific worldview.  They are presupposed by that worldview, but they have no proper place within it.  That’s what I mean.

Science – as chemistry, physics, biology, etc. – cannot answer any of these questions.  It cannot discover the answers via something acted on by science; the answers are to be found in something that makes room for science to act.  Vervaeke continues:

Whenever we are doing science and saying “this is what the world is,” we are absenting ourselves from it; we have no home in which we are properly situated.  And I think that ramifies itself into everything we say and do to each other and with each other in a profoundly corrosive way. 

The idea is that science sees itself as coming from a neutral space, that it can act outside of, or uninfluenced by, the stage on which it is acting.  As Vervaeke concludes, this is “causing massive suffering.”  Hence, the meaning crisis.

Now, Peterson digs further: “What is the profoundly corrosive way? He asks.  And Vervaeke offers an interesting example:

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Crisis of Protestant Worship

 

Not my title.  I stole it from the title of a video conversation between Len Vander Zee and Paul VanderKlay – both ministers in the Christian Reformed Church of North America.  In other words, this isn’t a review of Catholic or Orthodox mudslinging against the Reformation (I really dislike that kind of stuff – from any of these against any of these).  It is a form of self-reflection on the part of the two participants in the Dutch Reformed Church.

This is part three of my (up to now) three-part series on the divisions within the Church.  Parts one and two are here and here, respectively.

As background for this conversation, Len Vander Zee is writing a book to address the crisis of worship that he sees in Protestant churches.  Many Protestant churches have dumbed down the worship in order to “meet the people where they are at.” 

Len: There is a crisis happening in Protestant worship of all stripes.

He describes his early life in the CRC, when there was a standard of worship. 

Len: the minister would always begin: “The Lord is in His holy temple.  Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”

The only “participation” was singing.  The basic structure of the worship service goes all the way back to the Synod of Dort.  For background, this synod, held by the Dutch Reformed Church, was called to settle the debates regarding Arminianism.  Delegates came from across Europe.  The synod also…

…set forth the Reformed doctrine on each point, namely: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement (arguing that Christ's atoning work was intended only for the elect and not for the rest of the world), irresistible (or irrevocable) grace, and the perseverance of the saints. These are sometimes referred to as the Five points of Calvinism.

An official Bible translation was also initiated.

Returning to the discussion….

Len: In the late 1960s, the Reformed Church produced a revision to the service that was quite similar to the Catholic Mass.  It ended up in the dust heap – hardly anyone used it.  It came at exactly the wrong time, when the culture was falling apart.

Paul: It sounded like they were sixty years ahead of their time.

Why does Paul say this?  What we find today is a move toward the traditional – toward the Orthodox Church, toward the Latin Mass in the Catholic Church, toward the more culturally conservative Protestant denominations.  As the West has suffered its meaning crisis, many are finding hope in the more traditional.

Len told a very funny story.  When he was younger, he taught a catechism class at his church.  He was going through the various flavors of Christianity, so he took his dozen or so students to a Catholic Church nearby, a “beautiful, big basilica.”  This was post Vatican II.

Len: We got there and sat in the back row, so we wouldn’t be too disruptive.  The church started with the procession, and the first hymn of the procession was, “believe it or not,” …

[And certain Catholic readers of this blog should cover their eyes]