Friday, May 15, 2020

If Christianity is to Play its Part


I concluded quite some time ago that it will take an institution or institutions that have the ability to stand up to the state if there is to be any hope for individuals to live a life moving toward liberty.  Historically, in the West, that institution has been the Church.  Remarkably, this institution played just such a role – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse – for the better part of a thousand years. 

We see today the complete failure of this institution (broadly considered as “Christianity” today, as there is no institutionally unified church) in standing up to anything of state authority.  Giving up Holy Week and Easter; need any more be said?

Yet, this institution is more likely to play such a role than is the other possible player in this game: the university.  There is no real history of the university playing such a role.  More meaningfully, there is no real reason for the university to see a picture larger than that which it finds available to it.  In other words: the Christian church has a picture of an authority higher than the state (despite its abject failure to recognize this, it remains true); the university has no such picture.

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, offered what seems to me to be the common core – the bare minimum requirements – for one to understand Christianity.  First, and foremost, is the death and resurrection of Christ, and that somehow this act puts us right with God.  Yes, I know that the “somehow” gets a little controversial the deeper down the theological rabbit hole we go, so it seems “somehow” was a good word choice on Lewis’s part.

We read in Acts 2, regarding Peter’s preaching to the crowd:

32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Peter preached the resurrection, and 3,000 were saved.

Lewis offers, further:

There are three things that spread the Christ-life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names – Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper.

He notes that there are variations in practice regarding these three things, but these three things are common to all who profess to be Christian.

I started down a path of examining a book by Brett Salkeld, Transubstantiation: Theology, History, and Christian Unity.  This as a step toward looking for avenues of unity.  To summarize: the author, a Catholic theologian, walks through the actual teaching of Thomas Aquinas and compares it to the thought of Martin Luther and John Calvin – finding that the Protestant reaction was not to Aquinas, but to what had become almost the opposite of Aquinas’s views.  The three were much more aligned than different on what happens during the Eucharist. 

Unfortunately, the word transubstantiation carries baggage for Protestants and Catholic alike.  With many Catholics accepting the wrong meaning, and Protestants rejecting the wrong meaning that many Catholics hold.

After writing a few posts on it, I decided that I had taken on too big a task. The language and concepts were too much for me, and I did not feel I was doing justice to Salkeld’s work.  From this, however, I really gave thought to what, exactly, I was after regarding Christian unity.  Was it in these doctrinal nuances, or was it something else?  For Christianity to play an institutional role as a check on the state and to therefore afford individuals room for liberty, just what would this look like…at least in my mind?

Well, as you will see, this may be a more difficult hurdle to overcome that the doctrinal issues that have torn Oriental Orthodox from Eastern Orthodox from Catholic from Protestant – and Protestant from Protestant, until we find a countless number of these.  More difficult, as will soon be clear, but it should be spelled out.

I find these necessary common features in two categories: first, those actions that can be taken without any recourse or pleading with the state; second, those which require a unified voice against state action. 


So, what of these independent actions?  These seem easy enough to identify: merely take on the charitable work that has been abandoned, because “the state does that now,” or, in some cases, the state does the opposite and Christians haven’t put up enough counter-action.

For example: feed the poor, care for the homeless, visit those in prison.  Provide a vision contrary to that which society offers: one of love, of meaning, of purpose.  Hold meaningful conversations; don’t be afraid of exploring faith and reason.  Paul VanderKlay offers an excellent example here.

Further, do something about abortion.  I don’t mean lobbying.  I mean open and support crisis pregnancy centers, support young women struggling with this decision; where necessary, ensure the possibility of adoption.  In other words, take action, don’t wait for the state to solve this crime.  Act first, don’t wait for the state.

Finally, stop sending your young men and women overseas for war.  Just stop it.  None of these wars are in defense of this country; the act of these wars destroys lives of millions who were of no risk to the United States or any other western power.

All of this can be summed up in one word: act.  Love is to be found in the doing.  The first book after the four gospels is The Acts of the Apostles, the key word being “Act.”  The earliest Christians acted this way, and conquered Rome – the mighty state of the Mediterranean world.

Now, where and how to confront of the state.  A unified voice is necessary to end overseas adventurism, put a stop to torture and indefinite detention, end the incarceration of non-violent criminals, stand up against the horrendous federal court system, put and end to the robbery of central banking, maximize the opportunity for parents to educate their children as they see fit.

Christian barely touch any of these, and to the extent they do…well, they are on the wrong side.

Conclusion

Yes, I know, not a simple list – actually, the more I look at it, the more depressing it becomes.  But there it is, all well-grounded in the Christian gospel and in Christian ethics.  All achievable if a unified voice is actually raised, and if unified action is undertaken.  All are also actions in support of liberty, an individual liberty protected by the one institution perfectly suited to play this role.

I suspect many churches will lose an audience by following this path, yet I do believe that overall many more people will be drawn to such messages.  The hypocrisy of the west is overwhelming, and today many people rightly see Christian churches feeding into that hypocrisy.  Is it any wonder that overall church attendance is on the decline? 

Church membership in the United States is down from 70% twenty years ago to 50% today.  Perhaps it is precisely due to the loss of just what I outline here (that, and the end of the Cold War).  Still, 50% is a large number.  With half the nation speaking in a unified manner on these topics, liberty stands a chance.  Unfortunately, too often those who have attempted some version of a moral majority took the fight in the wrong direction.

So, that’s it.  Not “that’s it” like my lists are complete, as I am sure there is more.  But that’s it in terms of something like this framework.  For those of you who have been regularly reading this blog through this part of my journey – the search for liberty, there it is.  This is where the real fight for liberty is – within our own churches.

I hate to be the bearer of such bad news…. made even worse with events in recent weeks.

Epilogue

“Can’t we just convince the people with our ideas?  The non-aggression principle and private property; these should be sufficient, and so easy to understand.”

There is no doubt that such education is necessary and beneficial.  But is it sufficient for liberty?  The simple answer is…no.  I will write something more on this topic in the coming days. 

17 comments:

  1. Regarding Christian membership numbers, my local Catholic Diocese believes that too many will come to church when they deem us worthy to enter under the roofs again on Pentecost Vigil Saturday (though the state of Indiana says you can attend church again as of last week). Hence, you may not be able to attend weekly. Mr. Mosquito, do you believe the pews will be overflowing again soon? I don't.

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    1. It's hard to say. We see how quickly restaurants and bars have filled to capacity when a defiant owner opened. Then again, beer drinkers might be more faithful to their religion than many Christians are to theirs.

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    2. Good points, and I pray I am wrong.

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  2. I think it's best to assume that Christianity has played its part and we should be getting ready for a new religious paradigm to take its place, much as it replaced older institutions. Its utter inability to handle this crisis, with every other institution muscling in on it without it putting up much of a fight, has shown it is on its last legs.

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    1. It is hard to disagree; all I have is my belief that Christianity is eternal.

      Let's hope it is, because what is taking its place is destroying humanity.

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  3. There is a huge disparity between Protestants and Catholics on the subject of baptism and I'm actually shocked that C.S. Lewis put it right out there as fundamental to Christianity. Because, at least in the U.S., the majority of denominations paint baptism as a "work" which is excluded as being necessary or effective by Paul's writing in letters to the Ephesians, Romans and Galatians.

    The argument places no importance on the nuances of Paul's arguments in those letters and assumes he was talking about the same kinds of works every time he wrote about works.

    It also assumes that salvation is a singular event and permanent. Thus, baptism doesn't save anyone and couldn't because it is a work in spite of the plain words of Jesus and his apostles on the subject of baptism.

    In the 50s Billy Graham glommed onto "the sinners prayer" - something that can't be found in a bible unless it's taped to the inside cover or added there by the publisher. It is said by many pastors that you are "saved" as soon as you say this prayer and that the salvation that you receive is permanent no matter how you live your life afterward.

    I am afraid that this common belief precludes the "church" in the US from having any significant effect on public morals or checks on government. Most of today's Christians would happily march undesirables to gas chambers if the government commanded them to, using Romans 13 as their justification. They believe and practice Antonomianism because the alternative is too uncomfortable. God promised to make us all rich didn't he?

    Christ died for us and a true Christian is willing and joyful to die for him because he has counted the cost of his discipleship, just as Jesus advised. We have centuries worth of examples of Christians who did just that and "endured to the end," as also Jesus commanded.

    The church in America, with very few exceptions, is like the Sardis church, having "a name that is alive, but you are dead."

    The church in general has to repent and go back to the first works (What? Works?) before there will ever be a resurgence of liberty in this country. Not only did many churches roll over to government decree, they are still rolling over after having been given "permission" to reassemble, wearing masks and antisocial distancing just as the idol big brother has commanded.

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    1. As I said, our real fight for liberty begins in our own churches. We can pray....and act.

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  4. Christ is Risen!
    The legend has it that the Lord appeared to St. Jerome, a lover of classical literature, to say the least, and declared, "Jerome, you claim you are a Christian, but you are really a Ciceronian". Would He say that to us today, for that would be a compliment, given the courage of that righteous pagan. Rather, he might say to us and especially our shepherds, "You say you are Christians but you are really lockstep Hobbesians." Millenia of public celebration of the Holy Mysteries, and especially the Paschal rites, have now voluntarily ceased. Christians in ancient times risked worshipping in catacombs or, sometimes, prayed in public before the beasts got to them in the Colosseum (where there is now a statue of the Carthaginian baby slaying Baal). . More recently, they went to their deaths in Bolshevik Russia singing "Christ is risen!."Presently, it will be so much easier to close the Churches in the future, under any pretense, say mental health: "You Christians", Caesar might say, "are filling the minds of your children with hateful prejudices." What a tragedy: not only voluntary acquiescence but not even a verbal note of dissent from the leaders of Churches. A bulwark against tyranny: at least some of the Catholics, some Cardinals, last week signing the petition against potential global tyranny are showing focused realization of and resistance to what is going on. For so many of the rest, the end is coming not with a bang but not even with so much as a whimper. The laity are now being told the virtue of the "home church": mere live steaming of liturgical services suffices. One young Greek woman complained that her progenitors had to endure the Ottoman yoke only to be forced, under the Western democracies, to stay at home and watch the steamed in liturgical performances. Who will come back to the now closed universities? Probably as many as will come back to the Churches.

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    1. Here is a similar story, also from the Ottoman Empire:

      http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2020/04/how-true-christian-leaders-act.html

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    2. Truly He is Risen! I have had to stop watching the livestream shows of the services. It’s taken me from participant to spectator. We are offered no opportunity to receive Holy Communion and are told to just be patient For God’s will. Is it God’s will that our Church now looks to very same authorities to guide us out safely and tell us when we can go back to church (????), and at the same time, the very same authorities allow unrestricted access to abortion services. Church dangerous; abortion safe. What a mind bender. I understand the need to give the authorities the benefit of the doubt in the beginning, but TEN weeks later, at least in my state which was founded on the cause of religious freedom by the way, we are still live-streaming with 10 as the limit. I’ve written my governor and my bishops to to encourage them to reach out to the assorted peanut gallery of power hungry governors to include religious worship as essential. At the very least point out the evil of including abortion services as essential, but worship isn’t. Rant over.

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  5. First, a quote:

    "Very early in life Newton abandoned orthodox belief in the Trinity. At this time the Socinians were an important Arian sect amongst intellectual circles. It may be that Newton fell under Socinian influences, but I think not. He was rather a Judaic monotheist of the school of Maimonides. He arrived at this conclusion, not on so-to-speak rational or sceptical grounds, but entirely on the interpretation of ancient authority. He was persuaded that the revealed documents give no support to the Trinitarian doctrines which were due to late falsifications. The revealed God was one God.

    But this was a dreadful secret which Newton was at desperate pains to conceal all his life. It was the reason why he refused Holy Orders, and therefore had to obtain a special dispensation to hold his Fellowship and Lucasian Chair and could not be Master of Trinity. Even the Toleration Act of 1689 excepted anti-Trinitarians. Some rumours there were, but not at the dangerous dates when he was a young Fellow of Trinity. In the main the secret died with him. But it was revealed in many writings in his, big box. After his death Bishop Horsley was asked to inspect the box with a view to publication. He saw the contents with horror and slammed the lid. A hundred years later Sir David Brewster looked into the box. He covered up the traces with carefully selected extracts and some straight fibbing. His latest biographer, Mr More, has been more candid. Newton's extensive anti-Trinitarian pamphlets are, in my judgement, the most interesting of his unpublished papers. Apart from his more serious affirmation of belief, I have a completed pamphlet showing up what Newton thought of the extreme dishonesty and falsification of records for which St Athanasius was responsible, in particular for his putting about the false calumny that Arius died in a privy. The victory of the Trinitarians in England in the latter half of the seventeenth century was not only as complete, but also as extraordinary, as St Athanasius's original triumph. There is good reason for thinking that Locke was a Unitarian. I have seen it argued that Milton was. It is a blot on Newton's record that he did not murmur a word when Whiston, his successor in the Lucasian Chair, was thrown out of his professorship and out of the University for publicly avowing opinions which Newton himself had secretly held for upwards of fifty years past."

    source: http://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Extras/Keynes_Newton.html

    My purpose in putting this up is not to start a debate about different beliefs among Christians in the past, but rather the ability to discuss those beliefs without being labeled a heretic and losing your job or your life.

    Christianity would have been much richer today if people had had the ability to discuss different points of view without the fear of retribution.

    As an aside, we now the tyranny of the left, where you can now not get a job or lose your job at a university if you don't hold a certain opinion on social issues.

    So we've moved backwards in some areas also.

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    1. Perhaps you are saying, that if the West had not embraced doctrines which were based on logical contradictions and the denial of the plain sense of scripture then it would have been spared the extremes of the atheist "Enlightenment" and the subsequent genocidal course of Communism. And as a second observation, that Newton being no slouch, possibly his insights into theology ought to have been treated as something rather better than the ravings of a madman. If so, to this I say Amen and Amen!

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    2. Ahmed, I respect the purpose for posting it. This opens up an avenue of discussion. I also agree with your concluding statements.

      My one thought: a better example might have been Martin Luther, or some of the other "protesters" before him. It is very difficult to accept that Jesus was not God and the Son of God. It strikes me that the sacrifice doesn't work unless this was so.

      If God created the world out of nothing (as He did), it seems to me that pulling off this trinitarian thing wouldn't be so difficult.

      With all of this said, rational discussion between and amongst men of good faith is the only proper way to resolve honest disputes. In such cases, even the "loser" can respect the final decision, if he feels honestly heard.

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  6. I really like this BM. I don't even know if I understand all the actions you are calling the Church to or the reason why.

    But I could see this article after some more thought, explanation, and iteration being a petition we could pass around to churches and Christians to sign or somehow other support.

    Keep up the good work.

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    1. Thank you. I am sure I will revisit this topic.

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  7. The cyclical apostasy of the church is pretty much a fact of history - besides being a constant in the narrative of the Bible itself.
    The current church culture is an outgrowth of what started 200 years ago - first, by turning over education to DaState - then it's only a matter of time for the effects on government, politics and culture.
    Christianity, however, is NOT Churchianity!
    God ALWAYS prepares His remnant to restore society after the inevitable collapse of 'smarter than God' produces its fruits - and we are beginning to see it now for more folks than the usual prophets.
    Simply, it's time to get back on track to carry out The Great Commission - and that is exactly what my presence on DaNet is about.
    For serious folks only!

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  8. If the only Church would stand up and be the Church, serving only God and not the state. The religion of State Worship runs deep. The banner is in the place of honor and allegiance is pleaded to it often, weekly in some Churches.
    The military is worshiped as well.

    Habakkuk 1
    16 Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.

    Habakkuk is only 3 chapters and a quick read. It seems to reflect what may be happening to the Christians in America. Compare Washington to the Chaldeans.
    Americas god is We The People, the source of all authority in a constitution that doss not even mention God.



    2 Timothy 3 King James Version (KJV)
    1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

    2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

    3 Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

    4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

    5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

    6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

    7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

    9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as their's also was.

    10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

    11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

    12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

    13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

    14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

    15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    In His Service
    Brutus

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