“Keep thy heart…”
Clarel by Herman Melville
In the 1980’s the Coca-Cola Company saw that Pepsi was gaining on them, so they decided to make a Coca-Cola that was just like Pepsi. As it turned out the Coke that was just like Pepsi was not acceptable to Coke drinkers, so Coca-Cola once again became Coca-Cola. Happy day if you were a Coke drinker.
At the turn of the 20th century the Christian churches – Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Protestant – thought that they were losing ground to liberalism, so rather than fight liberalism they decided to become liberals. And unfortunately the churches did not return to their ‘classic’ beliefs when their new liberal Christianity still continued to lose ground to secular liberalism. By the 21st century, there was no difference between the Christianity preached in the mainstream churches and the liberalism preached in the pulpits of liberal academia. The churches, with the exception of some splinter groups in every denomination, have all been leased out to the liberals.
What is so amazing to me about the splinter groups is that they still insist on using the same apologetics for their sects that were used prior to the collapse of the mainstream wings of their churches. The traditionalist Roman Catholics still insist on the doctrine of papal infallibility while maintaining the right to disregard everything the liberal popes say. They still insist that Latin and Aquinas can save, and they still insist that the apostolic succession exists only in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Orthodox Anglicans, or Biblical Catholics, combine the sacramental elements that the Protestants lack and the Biblical element that the Roman Catholics lack. The Bible, the Church Fathers, and the two creeds, the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed, are their touchstones of reality. The Orthodox Anglicans also claim a divine mandate for their teaching authority based on the apostolic succession of their ministers. (1)
The Protestant fundamentalists generally do not claim apostolic succession; in fact, they deny the necessity of apostolic succession. The Protestant’s divine mandate to preach the Gospel comes from an inward call of the Holy Spirit. Both the traditionalist Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Anglican have pointed out the subjectivity of the fundamentalists’ mandate, but neither the traditionalist Roman Catholic nor the Orthodox Anglican see that their preaching mandate does not rest on as firm a foundation as they maintain, because they do not confront the apostasy of the mainstream branches of their respective churches. Why should I believe in the divine mandate of the Roman Catholic Church when their pope is a blasphemer? And why should I believe in the divine mandate of the Anglican Church when they ordain women and homosexuals? It seems to me that the Traditionalist Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Anglicans are in the same boat with the fundamentalists; they have not come to terms with the apologetics disaster caused by the liberalism of their church.
Back in the days when I used to debate with liberals, they would always label my belief in the divinity of Christ as ‘wish fulfillment.’ “You merely want to recapture the dream of your childhood, the dream of an all-loving Savior who saved you and your loved ones from death.” There is no absolute rejoinder to that accusation. One can only insist, as Thomas Hughes insists in his debate with the Biblical exegetes, “[T]hey must pardon us if even at the cost of being thought and called fools for our pains, we deliberately elect to live our lives to the contrary assumption. It is useless to tell us that we know nothing of these things, that we can know nothing until their critical examination is over; we can only say, ‘Examine away; but we do know something of this matter, whatever you may assert to the contrary, and mean to live on that knowledge.’”
The churches went wrong when they attempted to defend themselves from the attacks of the rationalist, scientific forces of modernity by trying to make their churches more rational and more scientific. They ended up outside their own traditions, looking in at the faith they used to have. The splinter groups are fighting losing battles because they hold on to the apologetics that brought them down. The fundamentalists keep quoting Scripture independent of any tradition, the traditionalist Roman Catholics keep trying to ram the Tridentine Mass and the modernist theology of Thomas Aquinas down your throat, and the Orthodox Anglicans try to prove that they, despite the apostasy of the Anglican hierarchy, are the true heirs of the first apostles. But we can’t simply wish something to be true, as the liberals accused me of doing with the divinity of Christ, because we want it to be true. I would like to believe that the Anglican Church, for instance, is the true Catholic Church, because I love the 19th century authors such as Jane Austen and Sheridan Le Fanu, who came from the Anglican tradition. And I idolize the Rev. Frances Lyte, but how can I honestly say that the Anglican Church is the rock which Christ spoke of when I look at the feminists and homosexual clergy prancing around the Anglican altars?
It seems to me that all the splinter groups have tried to run before they were ready to walk. The religion of the heart, so denigrated by the religious apologists, must come before the clerical apostolic succession genealogy charts. (2) Why would I pick up a book on Anglicanism if I wasn’t first moved to do so because I had fallen in love with the Christ I saw embodied in the culture of the 19th century English Anglicans? And why would I reject traditionalist Catholicism despite its present pomp and past splendor if I hadn’t seen, through the eyes of my heart, that it was a whited sepulchre of a church that had not charity? And lastly, why would I be both attracted and repelled by fundamentalist Protestantism if my heart was not drawn to their insistence on an adherence to the Word of God -- and subsequently sickened when they treat the word of God as a self-help popular mechanics handbook that can be quoted selectively for sectarian motives?
The heart is the great sifting ground. There the battle for the faith must be waged. No Christian denomination is without Christians, but no denomination has proven it is the rock to which we can cling in times of adversity. What would be wrong with viewing Faith as the rock and judging every church by how faithful, in the eyes of our heart, they are to Him?
The liberals are forever looking for the missing link that will prove Darwin’s theory of evolution. Christian Europeans need to find the missing link in their apologetics. The missing link is the bloodlines of the European people. Consulting the Bible, the creeds, and the experts about Christ without looking at the inner life of the Europeans is like consulting the local library to learn about your grandfather, while you ignore the testimonies of your father and your grandfather’s blood relations. The creeds came from the marriage of Christ and the European people. The way we interpret the Bible stems from the first Europeans’ vision of Christ. We cannot divorce ourselves from the European past and still hold on to the blood faith of the Europeans of the past.
“The fool in his heart says there is no God.” And hasn’t the European clergyman, by denying the existence of the heartfelt faith of the European people, said there is no God? A God of parchment, devoid of a heart, is not a God. The fundamentalist’s Bible mentions the heart more times than can be counted. The litanies of the Roman and Anglican Catholics refer time and again to His Sacred Heart. Is the heart of man then such an irrelevancy that it can be ignored? The heart is the spiritual organ of sight. One only reads the Bible or studies the creeds when one sees a vision of the Man of Sorrows. In calmer moments, when the white heat of vision has cooled, we write creeds and underline passages of the Bible, but we can’t sever ourselves from our bloodlines without killing the vision which our faith is based upon. We perish today because we have lost our vision.
The mystic mariner, Herman Melville, had something to say about the ultimate source of divine revelation:
Then keep they heart, though yet but ill-resigned—_______________________________________
Clarel, thy heart, the issues there but mind;
That like the crocus budding through the snow--
That like a swimmer rising from the deep--
That like a burning secret which doth go
Even from the bosom that would hoard and keep;
Emerge thou mayst from the last whelming sea,
And prove that death but routs life into victory. +
(1) I don’t understand how a sect that professes to be “Biblical” can ignore the incident in the Bible where the apostles come to Christ and tell him other men, besides their small group of apostles, are casting out devils in Christ’s name:
And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.(2) The entire religious crisis of the 20th and now the 21st century was succinctly articulated by Richard Weaver in his book Visions of Order:
– Mark 9: 38-41
This brings us to the necessity of concluding that the upholders of mere dialectic, whether they appear in this modern form or in another, are among the most subversive enemies of society and culture. They are attacking an ultimate source of cohesion in the interest of a doctrine which can issue only in nullity. It is no service to man to impugn his feeling about the world qua feeling. Feeling is the source of that healthful tension between man and what is -- both objectively and subjectively. If man could be brought to believe that all feeling about the world is wrong, there would be nothing for him but collapse.