Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Tower

 It's party time for the guys in the tower of Babel

Sodom meet Gomorrah, Cain meet Abel

Have a ball y'all

-          Tower of Babel, Elton John

Genesis 11: 1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.

There was a time that I understood this in just one way: the plain reading of the text, as many would describe it.  Historical, scientific, nominal.  Over the last several years, I have come to appreciate that it need not be this way – and, in fact, for countless centuries it was not this way.

Could we not say today that everyone on earth has one language?  I can translate any document into English with a click or two of my mouse.  Do we not have “one language”? 

Yet, it is safe to say that they did not have google translate three or four millennia ago.  But they did have trade.  Significant and meaningful trade, over vast distances.  Consider just what such trade requires.  What does it require today?

Trust.  Trust in your trading partner, trust in the medium of exchange, trust in the logistics flow and supply chain, trust in the stability of prices, trust in your employees and customers, trust in the rules and regulations, trust in the weather, trust in the soil.  When you have these – even if not perfectly, but reasonably so and reasonably reliably – are you not speaking the same language with others all around the world?

And what happens when this is the case – this one language?  Does man use it for good or for ill?  Man being human, the answer is clear.

4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Pride.  Replace God.  Remove Him from society. 

It seems this idea is not agreeable to God:

5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

Or, if you want to avoid the “God” part of this story, then just consider: any universalizing governance structure or universal institution (if it isn’t under God’s authority) presents the same problem (and since this paragraph is for those who want to avoid the “God” of this story, then this means every single universalizing governance structure presents the same problem).

And isn’t this what our betters have in mind?  In store for the rest of us?  This one language, this universalizing institution for governance and control?

God has solved that problem before:

7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.”

This is simple: destroy the trust in all of the factors that underlies widespread trade.  The medium of exchange, etc.  This will do more to “confuse the language” than anything else that could be done today.  So, maybe it isn’t God actively destroying these factors.  Maybe God just knew that it was inevitable whenever man decides to place himself in the place of God.  The laws of economics, the laws of nature: maybe God set these in motion to do the heavy lifting whenever these were violated to the point of breaking.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Ideology, Abstractions, and Terror

The French Revolution had been a catastrophe for Christendom.

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

That the optimism of the Revolution unleashed a wave of terror in no way diminished the hopes and expectations of the revolutionaries. 

Perhaps an example of what we know to be true about our time.  The peaceful methods of pointing out the hypocrisy and lies of today’s revolutionaries have zero impact on the onward march of revolution, as we know.  Why would it, when even the bloodshed offered in the French Revolution did nothing to slow down the drive and fervor?

It took a decade, until 1799, for the revolution to spend itself.  By then, a group of moderates came to the fore.  They sought a figurehead.  What they got was a strongman.

In 1792, Napoleon Bonaparte would defend the borders of France against Austria and Prussia; in 1795, he defended against a Roman Catholic royalist insurgency in Paris – firing grapeshot into the crowds.  When appointed to the honorary position of first consul in 1799, he overthrew the government.  Dictatorship followed the decade of bloodshed that was supposed to deliver a utopian republicanism.

In his domestic policy, Napoleon proved an agent of secularism.

While not a fan of Robespierre’s inclination toward terror, he did share the Jacobin’s deistic convictions.  The Roman Catholic Church would not have the authority it had before 1789, however he would restore peace with Rome.  In 1801, Roman Catholicism was recognized as the religion of “the majority” of Frenchmen. 

Yet bishops were required to swear an oath of loyalty to him…after being appointed by him.  French Christianity would be subordinate to the government.

And this is where I keep coming up against my major objection to this work by Strickland and the idea of governance as offered by the Eastern Church – the idea that the ideal government is one where the emperor would rule in a most Christian manner, being guided by bishops who were subordinate to him.

It almost never worked out well, with the one or two exceptions touted so strongly such that they demonstrate the folly of such a scheme.  The emperor would use the bishops when it suited him, and would ignore the bishops when it didn’t.  It was that simple.

In any case…in 1804, Pope Pius VII would travel to Paris to formally recognize Napoleon as emperor.  With him, a replica of the crown placed on the head of Charlemagne.  Napoleon would seize the crown and himself placed it on his head.  Subordination to the Church would in no way be tolerated.

In 1809, he would invade Italy and seize the Papal States and take that same pope as prisoner to France.  He would invade Russia with half-a-million men in 1812.  Seventy thousand would die in Borodino in September, but still he marched on.  A week later, he would enter Moscow, only to see it had been burned by the fleeing citizens.  He would turn the Kremlin’s cathedrals into horse stalls.

Within a month, lacking food and supplies, he was forced to retreat.  His attempts at negotiating with Alexander met with failure – Alexander refused to negotiate with the man who many in Europe saw as the Antichrist until every invader was out of Russia.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Natural Law and the Meaning Crisis…

…or, as an alternative title: Must I Set Myself on Fire in a Public Display of Indignation….

Paul VanderKlay did a two-hour video covering a discussion between John Vervaeke and Jonathan Pageau that was hosted by Rebel Wisdom.  I watched PVK’s video, and the comment I left at his site regards this:

Two hours on a video that is focused on the necessity of natural law ethics and objective morality in order to live peacefully among other human beings and as the solution to the meaning crisis without ever once mentioning natural law ethics while dissing the idea of objective morality. 

Yes.  His entire video talked all around natural law but never mentioned it.  As for the term objective regarding morality and ethics, this was dismissed.

That’s really quite an accomplishment.  Thank God Karl is no longer around.  The tirades that would flow would be…Biblical!

Karl used to comment often at PVK’s site.  His frustration on the lack of focus on natural law ethics as necessary in this dialogue would often result in direct, blunt, biting comments.

I understand Vervaeke doesn’t want nostalgia. 

Vervaeke doesn’t want to go back to something.

He (and, it is clear, PVK) will have to contend with Lewis and The Abolition of Man on this point.

Why?  You know why (at least those of you who have been reading attentively over the years).  Citing Lewis from this book:

This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. 

It is the sole source of all value judgements.  If it is rejected, all value is rejected.  If any value is retained, it is retained.

Unless you accept these without question as being to the world of action what axioms are to the world of theory, you can have no practical principles whatever.  You cannot reach them as conclusions; they are premises.

There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world.

The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in.

Nostalgia.  Nostalgia for traditional and objective ethics – the natural law.

Returning to my comment at PVK’s site:

It’s a good thing that there will be an eternity to sort this out.  At this pace, however, even eternity might not be long enough.

And then, a gift out of the blue – although, again, no mention of natural law at all.  A discussion between Jordan Peterson, John Vervaeke, and Jonathan Pageau.  This was complicated to follow, and it went on for 2.5 hours.  But I did find a few gems that were at the same time recognizable to me – including this million-dollar quote:

Monday, August 8, 2022

To Whom is the Apostle Writing?

Romans 13: 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

I have written often on this passage, and others which also speak to the relationship of the governed to the governor.  I have written of it from the view that the common interpretation is incorrect – or at least incomplete. 

For example, “governing authorities” does not mean simply those who occupy positions of monopoly authority: the state.  There are many governing authorities – including the Church and the family, and others such as universities, guilds, trade organizations, customers, business associates, etc.

Further, we run into the stumbling block of the authority that demands of us to act against our conscience – against God, if you will.  One cannot read these verses written by St. Paul and reconcile this simplistic understanding with the fact that he defied the authorities unto his death.  (Which, if we are to extend this example, suggests that, ultimately, accepting the possibility of martyrdom is both necessary individually and beneficial as a means to grow the Kingdom.)

But this post won’t go through all of this ground – as if the only group St. Paul is writing to is the governed.  Instead, let’s review what he is writing to those in authority….

3(a) For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.

This is the role of those in authority – to be a “terror” to (other translations use the phrase “strike fear in” or some version of this) those who act in bad conduct.

3(b) Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,

The ruler is to approve of good conduct – not punish it, not make it illegal, not cancel it.  To approve it.

4(a) for he is God's servant for your good.

But if the one in authority is not God’s servant for good, then whose servant is he if he rewards evil?

4(b) But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

I think about what many refer to as “the Old Testament God” (as if He changed).  The “wrath” He poured out on the wrongdoers of Sodom and Gomorrah, the wrath He poured out in the book of Joshua.  It was wrath poured out on those who act in bad conduct – those who practice evil, and even glory in it.  That wrath was poured out even on those in authority….

5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

Those who “must be in subjection” also include those in authority, else they will receive God’s wrath.  This is tough, a test of our patience and superficial sense of justice: God’s wrath when?  Through whose hand?  Unfortunately, you might say, this is where we, as Christians, are stuck.  Time works differently for God than it does for us.  How His wrath is shown may not always be to our immediate and worldly satisfaction.

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

Because of “what” do we pay taxes?  The “what” is all of the things St. Paul has offered as required of those in authority: to reward good and punish evil; to be a terror to those of bad conduct, not good.  But there is more on this subject of taxes, and for this I turn to the time when Israel demanded a king, and the warning God offered regarding their demand:

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

When Revolution Comes

Louis XVI had called for the convocation of the Estates General, and as the year 1789 opened it began to assemble.

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

He had no choice, really.  The state’s finances were a mess.  He would have the support of most of the first two estates – the clergy and the nobility – as long as no new taxes were involved.  The third estate was not so obliging.  More than mere financial reform was expected; they wanted to see action on many fronts, where critical views were now circulating on the shape and nature of the state itself.

Here is where the vision of Jean-Jacques Rousseau would be decisive.  None of the Augustinian anthropological pessimism for him.  “Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.”  Man is not born evil, but good.  It is human society that corrupts him.  The restoration of innocence is possible, but only through a transformation of society.

A “general will” replaces the individual will.  This general will offers an escape from evil that is neither natural nor supernatural.  Idealism and self-sacrifice are required.  And, of course, revolution.

By the time the Estates General convened in May of 1789, revolution was already brewing.  The third estate demanded a national assembly to serve the interests of the majority of the population.  Louis scoffed, an insurrection was fomented, and on July 14 the Bastille was stormed.  Mostly symbolic by this time, except for the garrison manning this prison.  Massacred, and the commander beheaded.  Terror would soon Reign, replacing the reign of the monarch.

In the meantime, the self-proclaimed National Assembly created a constitutional monarchy modeled on that of Britain.

All Roman Catholic Church property was confiscated; monastic orders were dissolved.  In 1790 a law was passed, demanding that Roman Catholic clergy swear an oath of obedience to the revolutionary government.  Many would refuse to take the oath.

In 1791, Louis would attempt to flee France in disguise.  Discovered, he was forced to return to Paris.  In 1792, Austria and Prussia would invade France to defend the principle of absolutism; national conscription helped to keep this enemy at bay.

The Terror would now reach its full force: Roman Catholic priests chased down and hacked to pieces; the king and queen were publicly executed.  The guillotine reached its place in infamy – symbolizing the terror to come.

As is almost always the case, the most radical of the revolutionaries would be the ones to seize power.  The Jacobins, with their leader Maximilien Robespierre, were fervent utopians.  A deist who would not survive even a couple of years after this, would proclaim the aim of the revolution as a wish…

“…to fulfil the course of nature…accomplish the destiny of mankind…make good the promises of philosophy…absolve Providence from the long reign of tyranny and crime.”

This new France would be a model to all nations and a terror to oppressors.  They would seal their work with blood.

“That is our ambition.  That is our aim.”

The clergy and nobility were to be eradicated.  As an aside, the so-called nobility of our time (including many who feign Christianity) seem to believe that they can be spared this fate by also joining sides against the clergy.