Cambria Will Not Yield

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Two Cities: Supernatural Man vs. Born-Again Man

I was listening to a Protestant radio evangelist the other day discussing the perennial problem of unregenerate man. “Why,” he asked, “were men unable to comprehend the word of God?” He supplied the answer. “Men cannot understand the word of God because they have not been born again.” In other words, “natural man” was not able to become supernatural (he used the word, natural, but I am supplying ‘supernatural’; he used the word, spiritual) without having a mystical born again experience.

The preacher’s words immediately struck me as so very similar to the words of a traditionalist priest I had spoken with many years ago. The priest told me that no ordinary laymen could ever get beyond the natural level without having studied scholastic theology as taught by the traditionalists.

Both the preacher and the priest felt there was a barrier between the natural man and the supernatural or born again man. The difference between their views is the crucial difference between Catholic and Protestant spirituality. The Catholic system places more emphasis on the intellectual comprehension of God and on the role of the priest as mediator. The Protestant system places greater emphasis on the emotional and personal contact with God and less emphasis on the preacher’s intermediary role. So when the Catholic errs it is generally because he over-intellectualizes the Faith, and when the Protestant errs, it is generally because he looses his focus because of an excess of emotion. Neither error is desirable, but I find the Protestant error less repellent than the Catholic one, for the same reason that Chateaubriand said the Adam and Eve’s sin would have been less repellent if they had erred by wanting to feel too much rather than by wanting to know too much.

The common error in both the Catholic and Protestant schools is a false view of natural man – or should I say a false idea of natural man. There is no natural man as distinct from the supernatural or spiritual man. There is only man. And his humanity does not need to be transformed or intellectually enlightened before he can comprehend or love the living God. His humanity needs only to be expanded and deepened. And that happens through the very act of living and loving in this world.

These two men, both excellent from natural disposition and acquired knowledge, had more points of similarity than they themselves would have admitted. In truth, the chief distinction betwixt them was that the Catholic, defending a religion which afforded little interest to the feelings, had, in his devotion to the cause he espoused, more of the head than of the heart, and was politic, cautious, and artful; while the Protestant, acting under the strong impulse of more lately adopted conviction, and feeling, as he justly might, a more animated confidence in his cause, was enthusiastic, eager, and precipitate in his desire to advance it. The priest would have been contented to defend, the preacher aspired to conquer; and, of course, the impulse by which the latter was governed was more active and more decisive.

-The Monastery by Sir Walter Scott

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Philosophical Speculation: None Dare Call It Thought

There are more things in heaven and earth,
Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, he presented us with a much more profound critique of pure reason than did Immanuel Kant, which isn’t surprising since Shakespeare was a much more profound thinker than Immanuel Kant. “Comparing apples and oranges,” you say. “The one was a thinker and the other a poet.” No, Kant was not a thinker. There is only one type of thought – poetic thought – which involves the whole man, and it is the only valid type of thought. Abstract thought, even if, as in Kant’s case, it is used to critique abstract thought, is not thought. It is a sick aberration of a distorted human being. “Is all abstract thought then invalid?” Yes. The implicit assumption in abstracted thought is that our reason is untainted with original sin and that we can come to valid conclusions about God and man through the use of abstracted reason. This is not so. Every philosophical system ever conceived has been false and pernicious. God’s revelation and man’s passionate, integral, poetic response to that revelation are the only antidotes to philosophical speculation.

But always working against that love for God was the abstracted thought of the philosophers who kept redefining God until He was too hideous to be loved. And when they had made God into a monster, they invented political systems that offered the European freedom from God. In every aspect of modern culture we are suffering the consequences of abstracted thought carried through to its ultimate logical and demonic conclusion. In the Catholic Church, for instance, the false idea abstracted from the heart of the Christian revelation was that the attributes of God could only be known through abstract thought. From that logic came the speculative God. Was he really there? If He was there, who or what was He?

In the Protestant churches, that original, integral, response to the abstract God was pure and clean. “They have taken my Lord from me, and I want him back.” But when the philosophical speculators came in, they turned the Christ of the Gospels into a hooded Calvinist who was just as abstracted and remote as the God of the medieval scholastics.

The living God has been so fused into the blood of European man that when he abstracts it is always from the Christian revelation that he abstracts. Look at the concept of freedom as an example. Our Lord did not want to be worshipped because He was powerful. If He had wanted that type of slavish devotion, He would have come down from the cross and set up a kingdom. He wanted the love of free men and women. And, in an admittedly imperfect form, He got that love from the pre-20th century Europeans. But always working against that love for God was the abstracted thought of the philosophers who kept redefining God until He was too hideous to be loved. And when they had made God into a monster, they invented political systems that offered the European freedom from God.

By abstracting freedom from the Christian revelation, the formula became freedom from God rather than freedom in God. And today what does abstracted freedom stand for? It stands for abortion on demand. It stands for the bombing of innocent civilians. And when combined with the word ‘market,’ it cloaks the most hideous exploitation of man by man that the world has ever seen.

Virtually every aspect of our culture uses abstracted, and therefore false and perverted, Christian principles in justifying satanic acts. Charity, which is at the heart of Christianity, has been twisted, like freedom, to serve un-Christian ends. It is supposed to be charitable to permit a child to be murdered in the womb rather than face an impoverished and brutal life. It is charitable to bomb thousands of innocents in order to be charitable to those left alive. And it is charitable to exploit millions of people in order to make millions if one then donates to charitable institutions.

In high school, I forsook baseball for track and field largely because I fell in love with the discus throw. It’s a wonderful event involving a complicated spin within a small circle and then the release of a weighted disc or plate. The last part of your body that touches the disc is your right (or left) forefinger, but your entire body has been involved in the throw.

Wouldn’t it be silly to assume that only the right forefinger was needed to throw the discus? Of course it would. But isn’t that the type of assumption we make with pure reason? Reason articulates the thought, so it is assumed that reason is thought. True thought is an integral process that involves the whole man. If he does not call on his whole being when thinking but instead relies only on his reason, abstracted from the rest of his being, a man will produce thoughts without depth and without any connection to reality.

The philosophical speculators such as Aquinas, Calvin, Darwin, and Freud, are the counterparts of the land speculators in the old B-Westerns. They possess secret information about the new railroad coming through and they seek to use that information to ruin the lives and livelihoods of the common folk. Many of the small farmers and ranchers sell their land to the speculators for what they think is a good price. But they don’t realize that they could have gotten more from the railroad and also that they will never, without their own land, be their own masters again. Those who do not sell are killed by the mugs working for the land speculators.

Ah, the lure of inside information. Isn’t that what the philosophical speculator named Satan offered to Eve? She walked and talked with God but that was not sufficient: she needed inside information to give her power. Of course the philosophical speculators, like the Western land speculators, have a huge array of mugs – academics, government agents, social workers, etc., that can destroy life and limb, so it is not without peril that we defy the speculators. But we never gain our heart’s desire when we sell out to the speculators. So why not do what the stubborn, die-hard, “I won’t sell out,” small ranchers do? They load up the shotgun and wait for the hero to emerge. All true thought crystallizes on that central fact. We live and act in the sure and certain hope of the return of The Hero.

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Babylon, Part Two

Hislop’s book continues to trouble me. I think he overstates his case against Catholicism, but yet, there is this lingering doubt I have. And I have that doubt because the Catholic Church that I have known is a terribly anti-Christian institution. But I always come back to the Protestant factor. Have the collective Protestant churches done all that much better? It doesn’t appear so. I asked a Baptist minister, who had been coming to my house, this question: Why, if the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon, do all the Protestant churches seem just as pagan as the Catholic Church? He replied that the Holy Scriptures prophesied that all but a few will remain faithful in the end times and the rest will return to the gods of Babylon. Well, it’s an answer, but not entirely satisfying to me.

Hislop concludes his book with the confident assertion that no objective reader, having seen how closely the Catholic Church resembles the Babylonian church, can fail to conclude that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon. Hislop should know that it is not that simple. His own church uses the pagan days of the week and the pagan cycles for Christmas and Easter; does that mean his church is in league with Babylon?

The trouble with Hislop’s case is that it is a case: a lawyer’s case. And we must go beyond courtroom logic to determine just how Babylonian the Catholic Church is. “The letter killeth and the spirit giveth life,” we are told.

So the question remains: is the Catholic Church, in spirit, a Babylonian Church? And to do Hislop justice, he doesn’t deny that many members of the Catholic Church enter the church with Christian hearts. His contention is that the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church is so stacked against Christianity that the Christian who follows that hierarchy will end up in Babylon. Let me follow Edgar’s example in King Lear and skip the lying vacillation:

“The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long."

The Catholic Church that I encountered during my sojourn in that institution was certainly a Babylonian church. Any devotee who followed the hierarchy was either a Babylonian liberal of the Novus Ordo type or a Babylonian Luciferian type (the traditionalists). The clergy were the deities Hislop describes. The blessed mother was presented in the Novus Ordo as a kinder, gentler deity than Christ, and, in the traditionalist ranks, she was presented as the Babylonian queen of power. One looked in vain to find the virgin who would pray for you, not because she was more merciful than Christ or more powerful than Christ, but because you, a sinner, felt the need of a gentle woman’s prayers.

Yes, the Catholic Church is largely a Babylonian institution today, but I do not think its pagan organization is the result, as Hislop contends, of a deliberate plan. I think it is a temptation to which weak men, that we all are, succumb. The pagan philosophers seem so strong and life on this earth so terrifying. Why not use their strength in the service of Christ? Did the early Church fathers maintain a delicate balance between paganism and Christianity? I don’t think they managed it successfully, but at least they struggled to keep a balance. But by the time of St. Thomas, the balance went too far to the side of paganism, which caused the Calvinist reaction. The Church has never regained its equilibrium.

I think it is terribly significant that the leading Thomist of the 20th century, Mortimer Adler, was an agnostic. That is the trouble with Catholicism: you don’t have to be a Christian to adhere to it. There are too many pagan side doors in the Church to distract you from the reason for the Church’s existence.

Two men could have steered the churchmen (had they been humble enough to be steered) away from paganism: St. Paul and Sophocles. The one could have told them that the incarnation was to the Greeks foolishness, and the other could have told them he had discovered that even a Greek with the intelligence to solve the riddle of the sphinx cold not ultimately defeat the fates without the aid of the “foolish” incarnate God.

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Considering The Two Bablyons by Reverend Alexander Hislop (1856)

This book made me sick at heart because the author goes places where I do not want to go but where I think I might be required to go. He makes the case that the Roman Catholic Church is the spiritual counterpart of Babylon. I suppose this is an old charge, but Hislop’s case is very convincing because the details he presents of the old Babylonian power structures and ethos so resemble the structures and ethos of the Roman Church that one can’t just dismiss his charges as nonsense. For instance, this description of the ancient Babylonian system of priest worship fits the Roman Church as well:

It was a matter, therefore, of necessity, if idolatry were to be brought in, and especially such foul idolatry as the Babylonian system contained in its bosom, that it should be done stealthily and in secret. Even though introduced by the hand of power, it might have produced a revulsion, and violent attempts might have been made by the uncorrupted portion of mankind to put it down; and at all events, if it had appeared at once in all its hideousness, it would have alarmed the consciences of men, and defeated the very object in view. That object was to bind all mankind in blind and absolute submission to a hierarchy entirely dependent on the sovereigns of Babylon. In the carrying out of this scheme, all knowledge, sacred and profane, came to be monopolised by the priesthood, who dealt it out to those who were initiated in the “mysteries” exactly as they saw fit, according as the interests of the grand system of spiritual despotism they had to administer might seem to require. Thus the people, wherever the Babylonian system spread, were bound neck and heel to the priests. The priests were the only depositories of religious knowledge; they only had the true tradition, by which the writs and symbols of the public religion could be interpreted; and without blind and implicit submission to them, what was necessary for salvation could not be known. Now compare this with the early history of the Papacy, and with its spirit and modus operandi throughout, and how exact was the coincidence!

Of course Hislop’s book would have meant nothing to me twenty-seven years ago. But having experienced much of what Hislop writes about during my stay in the Church, I read his book with interest and with a sadness of a metaphysical nature. Why the sadness? Well, although I have changed my position vis-à-vis the Catholic Church from a belief in her claim to be the one, true church, to a belief that she is one component part of the body of Christian churches, I am quite reluctant to view the Roman Catholic Church as the “Whore of Babylon.” But of course my reluctance is not the issue. Is what Hislop writes true? That is the issue.

I do not question Hislop’s evidence that shows a similarity between the Babylonian forms of worship and the Roman Catholic forms. But showing the similarity of exteriors does not prove that the interiors are the same. Is the spirit of Catholicism a Babylonian spirit? I would say, “yes, it is,” without hesitation if I knew for certain that the traditionalists truly, as they claim, represent the Roman Catholic Church. I will out-Hislop Hislop in my denunciation of that church, but I’m not entirely convinced that the traditionalists do speak for the old Roman Catholic Church. Is it possible that the traditionalists have only preserved the worst elements of the old Catholicism, the Babylonian elements?

What I find difficult to believe is Hislop’s contention that the Babylonian seed was planted in the church right from the beginning, which of course would mean that the Roman Catholic Church has not gone wrong but is instead intrinsically evil. That a Greek-Babylonian element was always present and gradually gained the upper hand seems apparent to me, but the intrinsic evil of the Roman Church is not apparent to me.

That the Roman Catholic Church from Augustine to Aquinas to Teilhard has played a dangerous game of Russian Roulette with paganism that has had disastrous consequences is a premise that I accept with all my heart. And I wish the Catholic hierarchy would face that fact and attempt a real renewal instead of the ongoing carny show renewal called Vatican II. Even if we dismiss the canon of clerical saints as propaganda, one must concede (for no less than the most unbiased and Christian of authors, Sir Walter Scott, tells us so) that great saints were produced in the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church. They might have been produced in spite of rather than because of the system, but I think if the system were intrinsically evil there would have been no saints at all.

That the Roman Catholic Church from Augustine to Aquinas to Teilhard has played a dangerous game of Russian Roulette with paganism that has had disastrous consequences is a premise that I accept with all my heart. And I wish the Catholic hierarchy would face that fact and attempt a real renewal instead of the ongoing carny show renewal called Vatican II. But if the Church is the whore of Babylon, then it is useless to talk about renewals. One should, as Hislop says, have nothing to do with her:

If men begin to see that it is a dangerous thing for professing Christians to uphold the Pagan idolatry of India, they must be blind indeed if they do not equally see that it must be as dangerous to uphold the Pagan idolatry of Rome. Wherein does the Paganism of Rome differ from that of Hindooism? Only in this, that the Roman Paganism is the more complete, more finished, more dangerous, more insidious Paganism of the two.

One way of determining if the Roman Catholic Church’s paganism is a regrettable slide we should fight to correct or the central tenet of the church which would necessitate its abolition is to look and see whether the Protestant churches expunged, after their break from the Roman Church, the pagan Babylonian elements from their churches. If they haven’t, then the paganism of the Catholic Church is a problem inherent whenever sinful man tries to organize a church and not a case of the intrinsic evil of the Roman Church. And the Protestant churches have largely, like the Catholic Church, turned from Christ to Baal. No less a Protestant than the ardent anti-evolutionist, fundamentalist Protestant, Henry M. Morris, has conceded it. Writing in 1990, he stated

If the written Word was considered to be the product of evolution, so was the living Word. Jesus Christ was no longer accepted as the unique Son of God but simply as a highly evolved human being, perhaps the pinnacle of the evolutionary process. His resurrection became a “spiritual” resurrection and the virgin birth was rejected altogether. His miracles were explained naturalistically, and his death on the cross was like that of any other martyr, with no particular saving efficacy except as an example.

Thus, biblical Christianity was all but destroyed by evolutionism. The great universities that were originally founded to promote biblical Christianity (e.g., Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, and many others) are citadels of humanism today. Even more significantly, the large Christian denominations (Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Disciples, Lutheran, Congregational, and essentially all denominations represented in the National and World Councils of Churches) were thoroughly permeated with evolutionary philosophy in both faith and practice.

I would concede that the Protestant remnant is sounder than the Catholic remnant, but that remnant does not clear the Protestant churches from the same charge of paganism that Hislop levels at the Catholic Church. All have sinned and fallen short…

At this juncture, I would like to bring George MacDonald into the discussion, not because he is an infallible authority, but because I think if ever a man was centered on the heart of Christianity, it was George MacDonald. He felt, correctly I would assert, that nothing killed genuine religion so much as an obsession with the externals of religion. And is not that the essence of the pagan religions? The pagans believed that the external act of sacrificing an animal, or payment of a tribute, or the performance of a ceremony was all that was necessary to please God. But the true God wants more. Why was Cain’s sacrifice unacceptable to God? Because God likes juicy lambs better than vegetables? Of course not. Cain’s heart was not involved in his sacrifice; he had only gone through the outward motions.

It is difficult to comprehend the depraved state of externalism unless we see it embodied. Otherwise we tend to look on it as a kind of minor league sin, a lukewarm attitude when we should be enthusiastic, but ‘no big deal.’ If, however, we can see the sin embodied, it becomes clear why it is forever equated with the world’s first murderer.

Pagan externalism exists in its purest Babylonian form in the Society of St. Pius X. Their god has power but not mercy, and his power can only be channeled through the priestly elite by their external acts of propitiation. And Mary, in their system, is not the gentle virgin but the Babylonian queen of power. But the Babylonian church of the SSPX is not a mirror image of the older Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has its Babylonian element, but I can’t accept Hislop’s view that it is the sole element of the Roman Church.

Where does this leave us? It seems to me that the ‘inerrancy of scripture’ men like Hislop are the St. Pauls of the Church. They must constantly be reminding Peter and the even more back-sliding members of the church that Christ is not Apollo and Cybele is not Mary. But there is a crucial difference: St. Peter did not excommunicate Paul for rebuking him to his face, and St. Paul did not call Peter the ‘whore of Babylon’ and form another church. I think both sides, the Roman Catholics and the Protestant fundamentalists, need each other because neither is complete without the other. The fundamentalists could learn from the Catholics that the attempt to kill every last vestige of the pagan in man can also kill the Christian in the man. It is not wrong to use pagan structures unless they are used to further paganism instead of Christianity. And Catholics could learn from the fundamentalists that Christ is greater than the system, whether it comes from Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, or Teilhard.

And yet I am not quite satisfied with that analysis. I’m not satisfied because I don’t want to give the impression that there is an equality of merit and blame between the fundamentalists and the Roman Catholics. The greater merit is on the fundamentalists’ side and the greater blame is on the Roman Catholics’ side. There is an inexorable, unyielding force behind the Roman Catholic system that is opposed to Christianity. Christ is the stated reason for the Church’s existence, but in reality He is only a figurehead. The system is all. Dostoyevsky was right. The Grand Inquisitor rules the Catholic Church. I don’t see why this has to be, but one wonders who or what can melt the cold, analytic hearts of the Catholic pagans. The Second Coming perhaps? No, if they weren’t that impressed with Christ’s first appearance, then why should a second one impress them? We who are about to die need a miracle, and so do those of us who want to see a Christian Catholic Church.

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