Saturday, December 08, 2007

On Sanctifying the Intellectual World

While I am greatly indebted to the "traditionalists" -- especially Schuon -- one thing I wish they would specify is exactly when they think the so-called "golden age" of mankind occurred. Sometimes they seem to imply that it was Atlantis -- i.e., a highly advanced civilization that ended catastrophically but which was the source of later ones such as Egypt.

This strikes me as an evasion, since there is no actual evidence that Atlantis existed. It's possible -- for example, the persistent rumors in all of the world's mythologies of a catastrophic flood that wiped out civilization. Look how long it took to to just find a single Coon in the Great Flood of 2007. Perhaps we have no physical evidence of Atlantis because it's under the ocean, just like Donovan said it was. And who could question the judgment of Donovan?

The continent of Atlantis was an island which lay before the great flood in the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean. So great an area of land, that from her western shores those beautiful sailors journeyed to the South and the North Americas with ease in their ships with painted sails.

To the East Africa was a neighbour, across a short strait of sea miles.
The great Egyptian age is but a remnant of The Atlantean culture.
The antediluvian kings colonised the world
All the gods who play in the mythological dramas
In all legends from all lands were from fair Atlantis.
Knowing her fate, Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth.
On board were the Twelve:
The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist,
The magician and the other so-called gods of our legends.
Though gods they were --
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new
Hail Atlantis!

The traditionalists are also profoundly anti-Darwinian, and in this regard -- despite the great wisdom embodied in tradition -- I believe they go too far. In my case, I would not call myself "anti-Darwinian," just "un-Darwinian." In other words, I accept any truths discovered by science, including natural selection, but I place those facts in a much wider metaphysical context that can never be explained by the empirical facts of science. To put it another way, the facts of science are only intelligible within a metaphysical framework that cannot be derived from science. In this regard, the water-tight logic of Raccoon emeritus Kurt Gödel can never be surpassed by humans.

And perhaps not coincidentally, the traditionalists are also profoundly anti-psychoanalytic. In this regard I suppose I can cut them some slack, as they all seem to share the same ignorance of modern psychoanalysis as does academia. They seem to assume that psychoanalysis began and ended with Freud, which is analogous to rejecting modern physics on the basis of Newton's ignorance of quantum physics. So the traditionalists rail against Freud -- for example, his determinism (because it erodes free will) and his hostility to religion -- even though there are almost no purely Freudian psychoanalysts anymore.

And in any event, I don't think it's particularly intellectually admirable to deal with anomalies in one's world view by simply rejecting them a priori, a strategy which is ironically shared by both fundamentalism and scientism. I cannot believe that this is what the Creator wants of us -- to bury our heads in the sand whenever we encounter a fact that seems to contradict revelation, and then turn this intellectual vice into a virtue by claiming that we are more "faithful" than the person who believes in evolution or psychoanalysis. I mean, I would actually have more respect for these people if they had the courage of their convictions and stop taking antibiotics.

Yesterday Nomo cited the well-known passage by Paul, which I will reproduce in the contemporary English translation:

"Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

Prior to the modern fundamentalist deviation, this was never interpreted by Christian Orthodoxy to mean that we should reject worldly knowledge, only that worldly knowledge should not be conflated with ultimate knowledge or salvation. Just yesterday I was reading about this in the new biography of the great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson. I don't pretend to be an expert in these intra-familial Christian theological squabbles, but it was his position that this error crept into Christianity with Luther, which, ironically, paved the way for both an anti-intellectual Christianity and militant secularism -- two mirrors of the same phenomenon, which ultimately comes down to failure to sanctify or "Christianize" the world. For Luther

"rejected the complexity of Christendom... and attempted to de-intellectualize the Catholic continuity with the classical. 'He took St. Paul without his Hellenism, and St. Augustine without his Platonism,' Dawson wrote. By attacking the natural laws and creating the Manichean dualism of Law and Gospel, Luther attempted to destroy the human need for mystery and 'prepared the way for the secularization of the world...'" This false dualism argued that "man is fallen to such an extent that he can know nothing outside the truth of scripture." But "if the world tells us nothing of value, the past, equally, sheds no new light on the situation of humanity and becomes worthless."

I certainly sympathize with Dawson's view. One reason why so many people get the "Jesus willies" and therefore reject their own precious spiritual and intellectual heritage is because their only exposure to Christianity is in its anti-intellectual fundamentalist version, which I myself find impossible to take seriously. As Dawson wrote, the intellectual synthesis of Christianity and classical thought "was not a contradiction but the crown and completion of continuous effort to achieve an integration of the religious doctrine of the Christian Church with the intellectual tradition of ancient culture." On this view, the "wisdom of the Greeks" is not opposed to Christianity. Rather, the Christian synthesis was the completion, perfection, or sanctification of these other vital intellectual streams -- which is an ongoing project, since history doesn't just arbitrarily stop historing.

This is a much more expansive view of reality whereby, for example, the great wisdom of Plato and the neo-Platonists is not rejected but integrated, say, in the deeply mystical works of Denys the Areopagite (see here as well for a fine introduction to the synthesis of Christian and Greek thought). By the same token, with this time-honored intellectual approach, a Christian needn't necessarily reject the wisdom of, say, Vedanta or Taoism, for ultimately, the appearance of Jesus in the Hellenized Roman world is not essential but accidental. What if he had appeared in the Indian subcontinent? Then the task of early Christians would have been to place Christ within the context of Vedanta -- to demonstrate how he represented, say, the "perfection" or "completion" of the Upanishads, so to speak.

Indeed, what if Jesus were here today -- an absurd hypothetical, since he is. Then the task would be to integrate Christianity with current knowledge. Which I, as a Coon, believe is the whole point: to integrate wisdom and knowledge and thereby sanctify the intellect.

I don't know how I ended up down this byway. I had intended to discuss premodern childrearing practices, and how they resulted in such widespread historical craziness. Oh well.... next week. I'm sure this is enough to start a rumble in the Coonosphere. Go at it!


walt said...

Three impressions from a Saturday morning:

1- The "recovery" of Ben, thanks to Julie's fine efforts.

2- A quick run to the store, wherein a middle-aged lady described how her husband awoke with Bell's Palsy (a temporary partial paralysis of facial muscles) and how he's suffering terribly because, "He's so vain!"

3- Bob describes "...the whole point: to integrate wisdom and knowledge and thereby sanctify the intellect."

Life is interesting -- and then some!

Petey said...

Ben, the latter day Job.

River Cocytus said...

Ah. Yep. Only from orthodox folk will you hear the self-assignment of the term: 'Evolutionary Theist' and not have any conflict with their belief in Christ...

The utter strangeness of it all...!

Btw, I got into a little scuffle with a leftist. They 'deleted' a comment I made to a note on facebook. I responded with 'Looks like my comment got deleted.' I received a message. Want to guess the contents?

"I deleted your comment because it hinders progressive and constructive conversation. By no means was it a well thought out action--in retrospect I wish I had said these things to you in a comment on the note itself. I'm sorry if it made you feel disrespected, it wasn't meant as a response to you, just as a way to keep the discussion moving forward."

1. Non-apology apology? Check.
2. Rationalization of error? Check.
3. Use of indirect object? Check.
4. Euphemism for censorship? Check.

(mine was the only response other than someone who said, 'well written!' what a discussion...)

Coonified said...

"to bury our heads in the sand whenever we encounter a fact that seems to contradict revelation, and then turn this intellectual vice into a virtue by claiming that we are more "faithful" than the person who believes in evolution or psychoanalysis."

Amen brother G!

"modern fundamentalist deviation"

So it was Luther all along. That bastard! This is a topic in much need of study for me, being from "the bible belt," where everyone knows the scripture in and out--alot like Nomo--but at the same time, don't really know that much at all. They've thrown out wisdom and substituted (n), albeit very wrong (n), creating a disconnect from O, and bringing about collective atrophy of (¶). What a drama. And I'm stuck in the middle of it.

Under these circumstances babies reared within cultures like these wither like a plant deprived of water, and to disassociate from the problem, everyone just calls malnutrition normal. Lies. All lies! ;)

Coonified said...

So Luthers great mistake was to desconstruct what until that time had been a muilti-cultural synthesis with the push (or pull) of Meta-cosmic substance--or Christianity--leading to such an extremly marginalized worldview that the end result was schism from the very substance that gave the Christanity progress--Christ.

It's amazing how peoples' pathologies get reflected into history, like Mohammad. In systems theory they're called "devolutionary paths."

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes, that was almost exactly Dawson's point. Having said that, I still think something like Protestantism was inevitable (given the self-acknowledged corruption in the Church) and perhaps even providential -- i.e., one more historical "split" that will require an even wider synthesis.

Gagdad Bob said...

I mean, imagine a world deprived of gospel music...

Gagdad Bob said...

In other words, I don't want to live in a world without Mavis Staples.

shantisha said...

I come here for the daily music selection, and to keep an eye on Smooooov. ;)

Coonified said...

Hmmm....wither like a plant deprived of "water." Your on to something coonified.

According to classical elemental science, take the chinese version for example:

Wood feeds fire;
Fire creates earth (ash);
Earth bears metal;
Metal collects water;
Water nourishes wood.


Spirit feeds plasma (bioplasma)
Bioplasma creates flesh
Flesh bears Life, or consciousness
Life collects more liquid
Liquid nourishes the spirit.

deviation from this basic cycle of growth might land you in Sheol, or at least parts of you. The waterless place is not good. Legion bad.

On another note:

"Protestantism was inevitable"


"imagine a world deprived of gospel music..."


Anonymous said...

To river:

I guess it seems like more of an issue of poor online social interaction. I think that he made a mistake, and he tried to make amends, and though weak; he tried. I would take it gracefully because that's about as good as it gets sometimes, I'd rather disagree with somebody with manners than agree with somebody without.

Which to say I don't think I've seen a forum/blog/board where individuals never lose their cool because most of the time people only visit the sites that share their beliefs, so they forget how to handle opposing beliefs appropriately in their online realm. I think it's because a lot of times it's just a troll being an idiot and whenever you do get that smart dissenter he/she seems like just another troll, even though they may have a valid argument. Probably pretty obvious but there are simple ways to fix it, I would just move on and tell that guy that it's cool, and call him on any of that kind of activity if it happens again.

Petey said...


Yes, it is indeed all about the living waters of anamneotic fluid, i.e., re-collection and birth.

NoMo said...

When do I think the so-called "golden age" of man occurred? For me that is easy - prior to "the fall". Before sin and death entered into creation. We know very little about the Garden of Eden. Other than what is found in Genesis and much later what appears to be its restoration. However one views the Garden of Eden, how much more golden could things be - at least in this world?

Here's what I believe. Revelation is Truth if it is inspired by God. The Bible is inspired. I don't believe there is any other written revelation inspired by God (Yeah, I know - WHAT?). Although I certainly don't pretend to understand it all (who does?), it makes absolute sense to me to weigh all experience against it as best I can - like a "reality filter". I firmly believe this is no different today than when it was written.

Great post today, Bob. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

In other words, I accept any truths discovered by science, including natural selection, but I place those facts in a much wider metaphysical context that can never be explained by the empirical facts of science.

Think nested Russian dolls...only the small ones can fit in the larger ones. So with scientism/ is the small doll if you will and cannot take in the larger doll of metaphysics.

Joan of Argghh! said...

I remember the first time I was truly introduced into the meaning of my Protestant choice after growing up a Catholic. It was in a very conservative Episcopalian church, and the Sunday School teacher was pretty much hell-bent on making all of us into Calvinists. Lowly worms, we were.

I was an avid and thoughtful student, absorbing and processing the lesson about Armenian Christianity and the dynamic tensions between Works and Grace, Mercy and Judgment... and my heart leapt out toward Grace, which made my mind question the Calvinist rigidity. It was all too neat, exact, and... I don't remember much else because I knew the truth of my own experience. I was growing impatient with Mr. Calvinist and had questions for him.

The teacher eventually censored me from further questions when he could no longer answer them.

The thing about OC is that the intellectual embrace of the Mysterious yet Gno-able Creator is a balm for the soul/mind realm, that yearns for more understanding.

In a season of thanks, I'm grateful for this place.

NoMo said...

Oh, and Bob, as far as psychoanalysis goes...why do you think I come here?

Bob writes on his little pad, "Just plain nuts."


Anonymous said...

The message of St. Bonaventure was this: that the world of visible and invisible things [beings, phenomenoma] can be seen in and throgh the divine light and that this kind of seeing strengthens, confirms and deepens the truth of revelation [scripture]. Experience of the world in the light of grace is a support for faith.

Valentin Tomberg, Covenant of the Heart.

tsebring said...

Bob...interesting post..especially the hypothetical about Jesus in India. While it's a fascinating idea to think about, I prefer to believe that it was absolutely no accident that Jesus was born a Jew in Judea. The scriptures spend a lot of ink describing geneologies going back to Adam, not just because the Jews placed such a high premium on family history (they did), but because it was all leading up to Jesus. Jesus had to be both man and God...for that to be possible, he had to be born of a virgin (the God part), but have an earthly father, Joseph, descended from the line of David, being the final fullfillment of the promise made to Abraham (the man part). I certainly value the wisdom of all the ancients; admittedly the words of the Tao contain a lot more wisdom than the vapid books of Joel Osteen. I simply draw the line at Christ's place in time and space being purely accidental; I think that the Old and New Testaments as a whole would indicate the opposite.

Anonymous said...

I simply draw the line at Christ's place in time and space being purely accidental

As Einstein was quoted as saying: God does not play dice with the universe.

Petey said...

Sorry. Do not cooncur. When the Absolute appears in the relative, there is by definition a contingency to the latter, otherwise they are identical.

Petey said...

And of course, Einstein was famously wrong about that, at least in the context of the statement, i.e., the intrinsically probabilistic nature of quantum physics.

Petey said...

Also, Bob did not say "purely accidental." Rather, he said "not essential." Indeed, he believes it was providential, but to believe it was necessary is to place very artificial constraints on the Creator.

Anonymous said...

the Einstein quote was intended to convey that the timing was purposeful (not random or accidental). Agreed, to say it had to be exactly then would be restrictive. Mary could have said no...

Van said...

tsebring said... "Bob...interesting post..especially the hypothetical about Jesus in India. While it's a fascinating idea to think about, I prefer to believe that it was absolutely no accident that Jesus was born a Jew in Judea."

As Gagdad said many moons ago, (words to the effect of) "Other than with the Jews, in all the world, where the heck else was a messge of "Love thy neighbor" going to have a chance of being listened to?"

River Cocytus said...

It was certainly purposeful but not forced. In other words, God was not constrained to become incarnate in those circumstances, but he certainly desired to.

Yes, I think this is the season when we say, "Thank God Mary said yes..."

Smoov said...


Smoovy has his sloe eye on you too, girl. Better warn you though: I'm a chocoholic.

Wheels up and we're straight outta Georgia, peach!

Petey said...

Yes -- it is something of a moot point looked at from "within" Christianity, since Christianity is history theologized," i.e., the idea that God inherently works through history.

tsebring said...

"Indeed, he believes it was providential, but to believe it was necessary is to place very artificial constraints on the Creator."

Hmmmm...not sure I see an artificial constraint here. It was necessary for Jesus to come down to earth and give Himself up as the required atonement for man's sin; necessary, that is, if mankind had any hope whatsoever of being restored to his proper place in the universe at the right hand of the Creator. Of course, Jesus didn't have to go to the cross, a fact that Satan attempted to play on many times. In Gethsemane was when the Ultimate Choice was made; Jesus reliniquishing His free will to that of His Father.

Of course, I don't think that's where the main disagreement here lies, since to deny the necessity of the Cross in Christianity is to gut it of any of its essential substance (which some very liberal Christians have been known to do). Therefore anyone who embraces Christian doctrine takes this as a given. I was just using that as one example to lead to the other one, namely, that of the "necessity" of Jesus' appearing when and where He did. The entire theme of the Old Testament, which both Jews and Christians would agree on, is that the Jews are God's chosen people, and therefore always had a special place in the heart of God, despite all their misbehaviors. The Jewish prophets speak many times of the coming of the Messiah among their own people. One of the main bones of contention between Jews and Christians, of course, is whether Jesus was that Messiah, or whether He is still to come. But I think they would both agree that Messiah is essentially a Jewish hope, promised by God to the Jews as His chosen people, who are in need of salvation and deliverance. Paul wrote of Christ's salvation as being "to the Jew first, then the Greek". Paul of course brought that salvation to the Gentiles, which was God's intent all along. But Jesus clearly meant for the Jews to be the first recipients of His gift of salvation. To the politically correct, egalitarian atheist (which I am not accusing anyone here of being, by the way), this is a fact that drives them up the wall, but is one that the New Testament makes irrefutable. In short, I prefer to look at Jesus' choice of place and time to be like His choice of being crucified; as a supreme act of His free will; a constraint that He put upon Himself freely, not one any man put upon Him.

OK, I'll shut up after this; all are free to disagree, which is what this blog and this country are all about anyway, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

yes, Mary did consent and nothing happened until she did. That speaketh volumes about God's respect for free will and stands in contradistinction to "Allah". It could be summarized as God's will is unchanged but the means by which that will is manifest are limitless, hence not restrictive in anyway.

tsebring said...

In other words, it wasn't Karma, or something that just "had to be" or was "destined to be" in a completely materialistic, scientific sense, but God excercising His own Free Will to do what had to be done. In that sense I guess there is an element of relativity, since God did not have to do what He did, and there for His possiblities of choice represent some element of chance (at least chance as we would interpret it), but I'm always thankful He did.

Anonymous said...


tsebring said...

Agreed, anon...Not only does it make Christianity stand out against the doctrines of religions that hold to destiny as being totally predetermined and irreversible, or who box God into a 10' by 10' cage (some Christians themselves are guilty of that; now THAT's an artificial constraint), but it stands out against the kind of scientific atheism we see in pure Darwinism, Skinnerian behaviorism, Hegelian dialecic, or Marxist economic theory. Those are artificial constraints worse than anything God would ever imagine putting upon His special creation. Pogo was right about the enemy being us.

OK, now I'll really shut up...promise.

Petey said...

I believe the whole point is that the Creator entered his own creation and submitted to it in order to redeem it: the Creator became one of his own creatures, the Author became a character in his own play. In so doing -- assuming he really and truly did -- he also "relinquished," so to speak, his omnipotence and submitted to the relativity and uncertainty of this world. If it were all determined ahead of time, then truly, there was no point, and certainly no lesson for humans.

For the human lesson is that we are -- through Christ, if you prefer -- fragments of the Divine nature who have entered the creation at this particular time and place in order to redeem both the world and our fallen selves.

Van said...

In one of his newsletters, Richard Mitchell noted:" T. S. Eliot, who remained a religious man in spite of his membership in the Anglican communion (it can be done, of course, but it's harder) has put the whole religion business in a way that Norman Lear would find useful. "For us," he said, "there is only the asking. The rest is none of our business."

And continues in the Fundie vs Religion perspective:"A belief in God is of crucial importance to the religions. They have a big investment, and a lot to lose. Not so for Religion. It is the God question that is part of Religion, not the answer. It is a very interesting question. If you ask it, you live one way. If you don't ask it, you live another way--the empty way."

NoMo said... "When do I think the so-called "golden age" of man occurred? For me that is easy - prior to "the fall". Before sin and death entered into creation. We know very little about the Garden of Eden. "

I see it as less of a Golden Age, than a starting line....

tsebring said...

Agreed, sir Petey...I think that's pretty much the Gospel in a GnotShall.

Smoov said...

Is there another blog in the world where one can imbibe deeply reflective Christian metaphysical and historical analsis while simultaneously flirting with a former Playboy bunny?

Gentlemen, I give you the One Cosmos Holy Nightclub, where all your dreams can come true.

ximeze said...

Are you playing with your airplanes again?

Van said...

Smoov said "Gentlemen, I give you the One Cosmos Holy Nightclub, where all your dreams can come true."

(clicking playlist of jazz, piano, slinky black dress reclining against it, "...Of All The Gin Joints In All The World She Walks Into Mine ...., play it again s...Ximeze?"

River Cocytus said...


A one, a two, a one two three four..

*b2 organ rolls out*

Gospel Remake?!?!?!?!

Magnus Itland said...

Ah, good strong stuff. Yes, poor Luther (warts and all) was necessary for history to get up to its current dizzying speed within reasonable time. Untying the Gordian (k)nots of tradition allowed the explosion of new thought that had its epicenter in the post-reformation wider Germanic area. If not for Luther, we would at best have the Internet by 2500.

Magnus Itland said...

If Jesus had wanted his disciples to make all nations into Jews, he would no doubt have said so more clearly. Even as it stands, the topic was hotly debated by the newborn Church, and the necessary arguments can be found in Acts and a couple of Paul's letters.

Actually Paul is an interesting early example of how to integrate the essentially Jewish revelation of the Messiah with a different culture. Again, Acts is mandatory reading, and the letters help too. Unfortunately the corresponding activity by the apostle Thomas in India have not been preserved in a reliable manner.

River Cocytus said...

Galatians, I believe.

Robin Starfish said...

morning has broken
bread into an inner hymn
be thou my vision

Lisa said...

Live Music Report: Charlie Hunter Trio at The Mint in Los Angeles, fan-freakingtastic! Don't know what the tour schedule is like but if they come to your town make sure to check them out. Jazz, rock, and blues with a touch of electronica and always flowing in a groove. Soul recharger. Better get some sleep so I am fresh for flying trapeze tomorrow, which is another rush in itself and very ethereal.

Still praying and thinking about Ben & Patti. Anymore news Julie? Better reporting than the MSM by the way!;)

Magnus Itland said...

Spear victim reveals Australia's brutal past

"If it happened today, it would be a brutal murder; 4000 years ago, it was a ritual killing."

So much for the noble savage, I'm afraid...

Van said...

Magnus said "So much for the noble savage, I'm afraid..."

As in so many ways, Rousseau was a trendsetter, this time for the MSM - he reported on how he thought things surely must be, instead of going and getting the facts on how things actually were. Would that Rousseau had gone to meet his noble savage - he might have become a meal for them and saved us from centuries of intellectual malnutrition.

wes said...

First time posting here. Must credit Bob with giving Platonism, with all its benefits, and the big insight, second chance for me - a really big deal. Thank you.

That said, to Bob’s post: Paul was almost certainly a fundamentalist by Bob’s nomenclature. There is little he said or did or thought, that looks or sounds different from a reasonably well rounded and theologically astute American evangelical. There is little Paul said or did, at least to my way of thinking (I stand to be corrected) that sounds like what you get when you sit in the pew at an Orthodox or Catholic church – I’ve done both.

Paul’s mystery of the Spirit was consistent with the Gospel’s teachings of Jesus; wild as nature in the raw, and no more capable of being systematized or controlled or managed, as do the Catholic and Orthodox churches, (humbly seems to me) than you can systematize the wind.

Luther, as near as I can tell, was the right guy at the right time with the cojones, for whatever reason, to dare to state out in the open, Paul’s theology, which contrary to popular modern belief was simply an exposition of Jesus’ teaching. That one is my opinion, but I’ll stand by it. I know that Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor” is not high philosophy, but it is truth in the same venue. The trouble with Luther, is that once you set the Spirit free, the men who broker him as a magical commodity loose their influence.

The passage quoted from, I recall it is 1 Corinthians, is reflective of Paul’s overall philosophy of the inability of man and the need for something akin to an absolute salvation. It is also reflective that God, as Jesus teaches in the beatitudes, has a different order for things, than the ones that we see in this here topsy turvey up world.

Like it or not, Paul has a rather low opinion of human reason and philosophy, and he believes that truth from God, is of an order of the Spirit. To apprehend this truth has less to do with Knowledge per/se, than the degree to which the individual has had a radical ego replacement surgery (i.e., mine for Christ’s). This individual will have supernatural knowledge that might make them look like buffoons (on occasion perhaps even like “fundamentalists”) even while in the kingdom of the heart, they are princes.

Anyway, my thoughts. Keep up the good work, and pls go easy on me. Gave up philosophy some years ago as a useless field of endeavour! So I have a heart for Paul on this!

Petey said...

You are taking an extreme ahistorical position, which is especially ironic for a Christian. God did not cease working through history with Paul. The Body of Christ is composed of a vast stretch of the living, the unborn, and dead, and among these, special weight should be given to the saints and mystics who represent the perfection of the Holy Spirit. To toss tradition aside in favor of scripture only is to do great violence to this body, and is anti-intellectual in the extreme (intellect as understood by the Fathers). I do not wish to debate the subject, so that is all I have to say.

Magnus Itland said...

a small note on Paul and fundamentalism.

To an observer today it may certainly look like Paul was a fundamentalist. This is because our fundamentalists are ripping off Paul. He is a favorite source, seeing how he has written much of the New Testament.

Back in the 1st century, Paul was the opposite of a fundamentalist. He had numerous run-ins with the people who insisted on living by the books, and it eventually got him arrested. He was indeed a wild card of the Lord.

wv: story

joseph said...

Just now had a chance to read this, so this is late in the coming.

As I mentioned before, traditionalist have as much empirical evidence for the golden age as we do for that miracle worker/God-man Jesus--namely scripture. Take away the New Testament and the tradition of the apostles and the historical Jesus is just a fella.
As for the when, the Hindu scriptures delve into this in almost fanatic detail for those interested in the timing. Nonetheless, material evidence will always be lacking as the golden age, according to tradition, was situated in a far less material reality.
As for being anti-Darwinian, traditionalists are really only defending metaphysic which Darwin explicitly attacks with his many illusions. If you step outside a metaphysical tradition and remove Divine archetypes, and you wish to imagine how species came to be, then transformist evolution is about all you have. Traditionalists have no argument with natural selection, so far as it goes. They simply argue against transformism, for which there is painfully little evidence. Where are all the intermediate species? Transformism is simply imagined. Given enough time, yada, yada, yada...Indeed, placing transformism in a wider metaphysical perspective can only be done, according to traditionalists, by overturning the metaphysic in question, or simply creating a new ideology.
As for phsychology, there has always been a deep and abiding psychological tradition in the various mysticisms of the world. Rather than doctors, it was priests and spiritual guides who practiced the science of the soul. Since modern science proceeds from DOUBT, rather than certitude, it stands to reason that traditionalists would, a priori, reject any study of the soul from this basis. Nonetheless, one always finds them recognizing that certain facts can be discovered this way. These facts, however, could never be essential, as all knowledge is not equivalent.
Just last night, I read a passage from Guenon's "oriental metaphysic" where he acknowledges the West's amazing creation of earthly weath over the last few centuries. He cannot help but notice, however, a correspondingly amazing decline of metaphysical intelligence and expression.

Wes said...

Petey - don't agree of course, but will respect your desire not to debate. Difference between dialogue and debate it seems to me, lies in the motivation.

Magnus - I wonder if your argument about why Paul looks like a fundamentalist isn't just a wee bit circular?

Also, I am not sure whence comes this interpretation about Paul's so callled "run ins." There are just a few recorded in his letters and they are esaily examinable.

Thanks for the conversation.

Magnus Itland said...

thanks for reminding me that honest, God-fearing people can see these things very differently. Of course the apostles too were honest, God-fearing people - more so than us, I would wager - and they still had the occasiona "sharp exchange of words" as the Norwegian Bible so nicely puts it.

What I try to say is that Paul was a Jew. So was Jesus and the apostles. Until Peter's vision of the heavenly feast, it seems to have been assumed that Christianity was a Jewis sect or (as the Christians saw it) the true new direction of Judaism.

When talking to Jews, Paul would refer copiously to the Scriptures as they knew them, but he would interpret them completely differently from tradition, and very creatively. He would read something completely different out of it than the seemingly literal reading. This is the rule with Paul, and for that matter Jesus himself who was rather disdainful when people thought they had eternal life in a book.

So at his time, Paul was breaking new ground. The question is, should we break new ground too, or should we just stay on the ground that Paul broke for us? Is there a need to extend revelation or was it complete with the last word of the Apocalypse?

Wes said...


The points you raise would be consistent with my understanding, except that I am not entirely sure that Paul as you say, broke new ground in this respect. Like Jesus in the gospels and the like many of the gospel writers, he certainly used the scriptures in what us seems a rather freewheeling style, as I might add, did the authors of some of the other New Testament letters, and as I believe did many of his contemporaries. To quantify would be difficult without expertise, but one thing I do know is that we tend to read back modern or at least non-Hebraic subsets of rational criterion. In doing so it seems to me, we sometimes draw conclusions based on insubstantial premises.

Your question, to me, is spot on in one sense but perhaps lacking in another. If you will allow me I’ll try to add a level of complexity (don’t mean to be dismissive with that frame).

There has been some research done with children and playgrounds (using this for illustrative purposes), that showed, at least for the purposes of the study, that children playing in a city environment, in an enclosed (i.e., fenced) space showed greater spontaneity, exuberance and creativity than those who were given the same equipment but with the fence removed.

The moral of the story is that fences, contrary to modern sensibilities are not always bad things. Likewise, the church as I understand it, has assumed that that the revelation of the person and Sprit of Jesus Christ, as exists in the scriptures, provides a frame from which spiritual truth contained in tradition and experience, is encountered.

In his own way Paul appears to have believed this, Jesus appears to have believed this as I believe did the other New Testament authors.

The trouble is, once you throw this out, the only adjudication between Christianity, and the supplementary revelations of Mormonism and Islam, among others, is authority and control. At least that is how it seems to me.

Now that begs a question: Of course the scriptures are open to contrary interpretation. But are they sufficient context for the working out in my life and yours, of the purposes of God?

Luther, I believe decided so. When authority and control is obviously corrupted, where do you draw the line and on what basis? That is a deadly serious question that any thoughtful adherent to Orthodox or Roman Catholic traditions should be able to answer honestly.

I’ll tell you the difference for me. We can just use Paul since that is what we are on but here is the deal. I see no corruption in the writings of Paul. I feel the divine wind of Jesus, revealed in all his glory. I see the beatitudes take life. I sense a power that is able to transform my inability and weakness into love, power and strength.


Magnus Itland said...

I am happy to see that we agree as much as we do. After all, Jesus is the cornerstone and the foundation of Christianity. His appearance in the world was short, but essential. Before leaving the world, he promised us another Spokesman, the Spirit of Truth, who would teach us everything and remind us of everything that Jesus had said. The rest of the New Testament essentially shows this Spirit in action, and should be enough to make us recognize him when he is active today.

This is certainly not to say that everything between St John and us is a parenthesis and that each generation should reinvent all other wheels anew. But it gives us a line of sight where we can fairly easily see whether some later revelation is out of line.

Christian fundamentalism, as the name implies, rejects all revelation after the New Testament as either irrelevant or just plain wrong. That is the whole point, to go back to the fundament, which is Christ. This removes the erroneous doctrines that may have crept in later, but at the same time deprives us of the beneficial revelations through the ages. The extreme hubris of fundamentalism is to assume that they will make no errors themselves when they build on this fundament, or foundation.

So in conclusion, a fundamentalism that limits revelation to staying aligned with the fundament is a good thing. A fundamentalism that tears away anything except the fundament is a dangerous thing and should be used only if the entire Christian tradition has been irredeemably corrupted.

I hope we agree on this as well.

Wes said...


I do agree with all that you've said. In return, I would offer some additional critiques of scripture based fundamentalism - one being an unfortunate tendency towards fideism, the tipping over of one's epistemology into one's ontology and asusming that my interpretation is God's actual word. As one wag put it, throwing my opinions up to the heavens and receiving them back as the voice of thunder!

Another troubling ghost of scripture based fundamentalism, (we all need to remind ourselves from time to time that this one of those linguistic entities that the late Dr. Schaffer subtly called "connotation words") is to bring that which is contrary to divine revealed truth, in through the back door to be unreflexively baptized Christian, and afterwards set in stone and invested with divine authority.

In any case, it seems to me that the criticism of Jesus, that we nulify the word of God in favor of the traditions of men is worthy of mulling over.

Take care,