Friday, December 31, 2021

Don’t Overreact


Taken from a video entitled “Paganism vs. Christianity,” a discussion including Jonathan Pageau and someone named Styxhexenhammer 666 (make of that name what you will).  I don’t think I need explain which of the two presented for which position.

I am not going to review all of it, but one part is worth touching on, time-stamped here.  This portion struck me because it touches on something that I have been thinking a lot about lately.

Jonathan Pageau is asked to describe his path to Orthodox Christianity: 

I think that if we look at Western Christianity, we kind of see a change happen in the late Middle Ages, through nominalism and through different things when the Reformation happens and the counter-Reformation happens, it kind of crystalizes all of this.

As you all know by now, I (and countless others) have pointed to this turning, identified with men like Occam and Scotus, as a key point in moving the West away from Thomistic natural law and toward the overwhelming view that came to full fruition in the Enlightenment.  The point being that what we today call science – hard science, provable and falsifiable claims, subject to mathematical equations, propositional learning – is the only science that is valid. 

As Pageau points out, this has also affected Christianity in the West.

What we see is what I call a kind of de-incarnation, a Christianity that becomes very basic, very literalistic, very moralistic as well. 

To combat the science of the age, Western Christianity (and, especially, Protestants) turned the Bible into a science and history book: hard science, provable and falsifiable claims, subject to mathematical equations, propositional learning. 

Pageau continues that Orthodoxy did not follow this same path, retaining the mystical.

So, what have I been thinking about lately?  As regular readers know, I appreciate aspects of each of Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and Catholicism.  Yet, I have found myself considering why the appeal of Orthodox Christianity had such a significant pull on me (and many others) in the last several years.  Was I unfairly diminishing the value of Protestantism – the focus on teaching the Bible, i.e., propositional learning?

What I am concluding is that I, like, perhaps, much of broader society, am reacting against the result of taking nominalism and propositional learning to the extreme.  Was I overreacting?  (As an aside, taking nominalism to the extreme is the same issue that is also behind the meaning crisis.)

Coming to this understanding has helped me to remain solid in the value of Protestantism – to not allow myself equally to overreact away from the propositional.

We learn in different ways, and different people learn in ways other than how others learn.  If for no other reason, it is for this that I am grateful for all well-grounded Christian traditions – and it is also why I really don’t like it when some individuals of one tradition or another strongly criticize those who are walking a different path.

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.  As long as one is accepting of what is to be found in the hallway, this really is sufficient.


  1. "...hard science, provable and falsifiable claims, subject to mathematical equations, propositional learning – is the only science that is valid."
    Except it never comes to that in practice, as only an elite few master the equations, the propositions, etc. For the vast majority it's "trust the experts."

    1. It goes beyond that. Even those elite few who master the equations and propositions disagree. All of us have to "trust the experts" at some points in our lives. The question becomes, "Which experts?"

      Operationally, the only experts who matter are those with political connections. This is certainly the case with the Western democracies. If experts disagree, the experts endorsed by our democratic overlords rule the roost.

      People would be more willing to entertain skepticism about Fauci's pronouncements if we lived in a monarchy or naked oligarchy. "Vox populi, vox Dei" remains a thing.

  2. I have to admit Bionic. The path you have documented on this site has made me reconsider my opinion of other Christian traditions. I have been watching the Ten Minute Bible Hour videos too.

    While I am still firmly Bible-church Protestant, I have a greater appreciation for the value found in Orthodox and Catholic traditions. Thanks.

    1. RMB, it has been nice to see many people stick with this path. I think it has helped that almost all commenters have respected to avoid making significant arguments on theological / doctrinal matters, thus leaving open the possibility to allow the bigger picture to develop.