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11/04/2015

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Mac, I've just started reading it, but I have an older edition with an intro by Frederick Wilhelmsen. Does the ISI edition have that? I thought it was very good.

And I've got Power and Responsibility in a separate volume.

"Nietzsche has already warned us that the non-Christian of the modern world had no realization of what it truly meant to be without Christ. The last decades have suggested what life without Christ really is. The last decades were only the beginning."

This reminds me of D.B. Hart's watershed essay "Christ and Nothing," which is a must-read for anyone interested in these things. Also, it's funny, but just this morning I was reading an essay on Philip Rieff which mentioned the same thing --Nietzsche's discussion of modernity's attempt to live Christian values, but without Christ. And last night I read an essay on Marion Montgomery, which contains this difficult but enlightening quote from MM:

~~Now, the gnostic manipulator of being, the one who would use ideas as a magician’s wand over man and nature, though he disbelieve in the God of Abraham nevertheless believes in this innate hunger of substance for fulfillment; he accepts a teleological drive in human nature and sees it evidenced particularly in the “ideological” inclination of man toward millennial ends. He will nevertheless explain it in terms of mechanistic evolution. At his best, that is, he is only a perverse philosopher, perhaps withdrawn into the acid of cynicism. At his worst, he recognizes the terrible power of ideology when it is under collective control by a subtle mind. On the one hand, he must deny that our inclination to worship idols is a truncation of a higher calling in us lest his authority prove derivative. On the other hand, he must encourage idol worship in order to enlist the power of that hunger in us. If he does not “sincerely” encourage such worship, he is in danger of being found out. Then he should have to declare honestly that the inclination is a fiction he encourages as a means to his own ends. In turn—if honest—he must account for the inclination in mechanistic terms. He must at least admit or deny that it is he who dreams a perfection which he intends to impose. Since in our several mind there is not one but many gnostic dreams, he must confront the ultimate question: Why your dream rather then mine? We must ask, if we accept the actual premise of his operation of mind; namely, his denial of logic or purpose in existence itself when existence is divorced from the human mind.~~

http://christendomreview.com/Volume004Issue001/remembering_009.html

Reading Guardini, Hart, MM, et al. -- very helpful in seeing how all this sort of thing is tied together. There can be no prescriptions for treatment given until we get a handle on the diagnosis.

I think I actually understood that MM quote. Maybe it's time for me to take another look at him.

Yes, the ISI edition does have the Wilhelmsen intro, and it is indeed excellent, on a level with the book itself. Also a preface by Fr. Neuhaus, which is...ok....

"I think I actually understood that MM quote."

Ha! Yes -- I think I read it 3x before I got it. Sorta.

But it really is pertinent: it if all comes down ultimately to sentiment, "why your [sentimental] dream rather then mine?"

Yes. That insight came to me quite a few years ago, and on more than one occasion I've tried to communicate it to secularists, and they never seemed to get it. Could be my fault of course. But I think many of them, although proud of being skeptical and "rational" about what Christians believe, are incapable of seeing their own assumptions.

"Yes. That insight came to me quite a few years ago, and on more than one occasion I've tried to communicate it to secularists, and they never seemed to get it. Could be my fault of course. But I think many of them, although proud of being skeptical and "rational" about what Christians believe, are incapable of seeing their own assumptions."

So funny, I was just about to write something very like this. Secularists seem not to be able to see what their beliefs will lead to once they have completely thrown off Christianity. They really have no idea that they even have assumptions.

They are unreflectively certain in a way that very few Christians are anymore.

Their positions seem self-evident to them, so there's no need for reflection.

Right.

The self-esteem movement that took off in the 1970s surely has to be a major reason for this lack of reflection. If you're told from your earliest days, that everything you do, think, or say is simply the best, why is there a need to take a close look at anything outside the warm water you swim in?

This is really good. More when I'm away from the dreaded kindle.

AMDG

If you mean the post, thanks.

That may be a factor, Marianne, but I don't think it's a major one, because the people I think of first in that context were all already adults by the '70s. Though my generation was already tending that way, and I guess you could say the Dr. Spock influence was in that direction. I tend to think, though, that it has more to do with a pervasive atmosphere, as pervasive as Christianity was to medieval Europe. People absorb this-world-liness assumptions without knowing it.

But then that doesn't really explain the refusal or inability to look at them when they're pointed out.

Yep.

AMDG

"They are unreflectively certain in a way that very few Christians are anymore."

Yes, that's been my own observation.

Here is a little example. I think it's completely uncontroversial that a Catholic would prefer to live in a Catholic state (even if it were not formally so). If I said that to the average secularist, they would say (as some have) "are you allowed out on the streets?"

But really, I would expect that a secularist is basically happy in a secular state (which is why he is terrified of the Theocracy which will never happen). I would expect a Protestant to be happy in a Protestant state etc. This to me is completely reasonable. Everybody, I assume, would want to live in a society which is most in line with his own opinions and beliefs. Surely?

Christian sentimentality IS atheistic sentimentality. Barth said something similar about religion as "esoteric atheism."

Guardini and Percy have a compelling existentialist optimism about future humanity even though they are trying to be grim about it. But if a de-Christianized culture is one that's repristinated for faith, then the old Christianized culture must also be seen as (fortuitously) corrupt. Maybe they missed that idea.

Appreciators of tradition have a tendency to imagine the past as more human, healthy, faithful (etc.) than the present. This is amplified as the hopefulness of people who are disappointed with the present. Their instruments are unreliable. There is no cultural or institutional past that is not swollen with putrefaction.

Pessimism about the past IS optimism about the present. I'm not sure I see your grounds for cheerfulness, though.

I don't disagree with your last remark, Dan. But there are different kinds of rot. There's the rot of failed intentions, and the rot of intentions. Our age shows the latter.

"Christian sentimentality IS atheistic sentimentality."

Well, yes and no. I think I know what that means, but there is still a significant distinction, as in the proverb about hypocrisy being the tribute of vice to virtue. Christian sentimentality pays deference to Christianity, and that's significant.

In the essay on Rieff that I mentioned above the author makes the point that Rieff saw the difference in our age vs. past ages in the fact that in all previous cultures there was always some notion of the sacred/transcendent that the society was trying to live according to. Our age is the first to have dispensed with the sacred, and willed ourselves into its place. That makes for a noteworthy difference. The rot is of a difference in kind, not just in quantity.

"But if a de-Christianized culture is one that's repristinated for faith, then the old Christianized culture must also be seen as (fortuitously) corrupt. Maybe they missed that idea."

I doubt it. Most traditionalists, especially the thoughtful ones that we're discussing, are far from "golden agers."


"The rot is of a difference in kind, not just in quantity."

Right. And even if we set aside the dispensing with the sacred, there's a fundamental difference between failing to achieve a good purpose, and having a bad purpose.

"...if a de-Christianized culture is one that's repristinated for faith..."

"repristinated"--nice word. But I don't think many people see that happening, exactly. A new situation, yes, perhaps with opportunities. But much is made of the fact that it's precisely not a repristinization, or won't be for generations. Some are more hopeful than others regarding the opportunities, but it's still with knowledge that a post-Christian society is very different from a never-Christian one.

I'm reading (slowly) The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger, and in the Preface he writes:

One of the first books I read after starting my theological studies at the beginning of 1946 was Romano Guardini's first little book, The Spirit of the Liturgy....

My purpose in writing this little book, which I now lay before the public, is to assist [his] renewal of understanding. Its basic intentions coincide with what Guardini wanted to achieve in his own time with TSofL. This is why I deliberately chose a title that would be immediately reminiscent of that classic of liturgical theology. The only difference is that I have had to translate what Guardini did at the end of the First World War...into the context of our present-day questions, hopes, and dangers.

So, that's interesting to me in a couple of ways, the main one being that Pope Francis is not the first pope to be heavily influenced by Guardini, and the next being that, once again, that rift that people want to see between Francis and Benedict is not so much.

AMDG

I'm not one of those people, in fact I'm trying very hard not to be one of those people. But I remain uneasy. Francis's regard for Guardini is definitely a point in his (the pope's) favor.

I know. I wasn't thinking about you as one of those people, by the way. I just thought it was interesting. ;-)


AMDG

I didn't take it that way.

Good.

So much of what Benedict wrote as Ratzinger dealt with fixing, or at least clarifying, the ways in which the ideas that influenced Vatican II, many of which were Guardini’s, were misunderstood and ended up causing confusion and then the changes to things that weren’t meant to be changed. My feeling is that Francis doesn’t agree with Benedict about all that.

I'm afraid you're right. This isn't the sort of thing I read regularly, but I ran across it somehow yesterday. The appeal to the argument from hurt feelings is pretty disturbing.

It certainly is.

Why is it surprising, let alone disturbing, that a Swiss-German Lutheran should appeal to an argument from hurt feelings?

I'm not sure why I put it like that, but what bothers me is not so much that someone would make that argument as that it would be indulged on the pope's side. I've heard that sort of thing many times--it's so mean of you Catholics not to let us receive communion--and find it pretty annoying. It's a subset of the broad argument that puts all the blame for the division on us: "if only you people wouldn't be so stubborn about your unimportant doctrines, there would be unity." To which I always want to say "If they're unimportant, why not just accept them for the sake of unity?"

Or are you making a comment on Swiss-German Lutherans in particular?

pointedly appealed less to the standard prohibition of the Eucharist for Protestant communities than to the woman's discernment in conscience.

I can't even figure out what that means.

AMDG

That Francis seemed to be telling the woman her conscience was the determinant rather than the Church's teaching.

"I've heard that sort of thing many times--it's so mean of you Catholics not to let us receive communion--and find it pretty annoying...To which I always want to say 'If they're unimportant, why not just accept them for the sake of unity?'"

Great point. Never thought of that.

I had this very conversation with a Protestant friend a couple weeks ago. He had a great deal of trouble grasping the notion that to the Catholic and the Orthodox the Eucharist cannot serve as a means to unity because it is the unity. Yes, participation in it presupposes a unity that already exists, as the Protestants say, but a vital aspect of that unity is a common belief in what the Eucharist actually is.

The subject came up because he was at some sort of ecumenical conference in the mid-East, and the Catholic bishop there allowed him to take communion at the Mass. When he told the Catholic folks there that his RC friends back home probably wouldn't approve, he was told to tell them that the bishop said it was okay, and what would they say to that? All of the Catholics and I in our group said that A) the bishop shouldn't have allowed it, and B) he shouldn't have communed either way.

Maclin, Yes, that is what it seems but what exactly did the Pope say. I don't want to make a judgement based on somebody else's interpretation. When you imply criticism like that, you need to offer and exact quote, and he doesn't. This is the kind of thing that caused me to stop reading that blog.

AMDG

Okay, now I see it's at the bottom. I'm trying to do next week's work this week and don't have time to read anything very closely so I probably shouldn't even be trying to talk about this.

I think you could put his interpretation on what the Pope said, but he's very cagey there, isn't he?

AMDG

Yes, Janet, I was thinking he had quoted Francis, but hadn't had time re-read it. And Francis is cagey, but there does seem to me to be a wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of quality to it.

Yes, I have to admit there is.

AMDG

"...a vital aspect of that unity is a common belief in what the Eucharist actually is."

Right. It's a BIG DEAL. And again there's that sort of passive-aggressive thing: it's un-ecumenical (and mean!) for us to insist on its importance, but ok for them not to respect our belief. I don't even really like to talk in terms of us and them, but it's the reality, and it's not true ecumenism to pretend otherwise.

Well, and there's this: For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

That's a really scary scripture.

AMDG

And the next verse:

That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.

AMDG

That brings to mind the old question of who's actually being literal in this debate. ;-)

Which debate?

AMDG

That's a serious question just in case it sounds like a joke.

AMDG

The suspense is killing me. ;-)

AMDG

Pope Francis:

I can only respond to your question with a question: what can I do with my husband that the Lord’s Supper might accompany me on my path? It’s a problem that each must answer [for themselves], but a pastor-friend once told me that “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present” – you believe that the Lord is present. And what's the difference? There are explanations, interpretations, but life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism – one faith, one baptism, one Lord: this Paul tells us; and then consequences come later.
There are explanations, interpretations, but life is bigger than explanations and interpretations -- I see nothing cagey about that; seems pretty straightforwardly dismissive of doctrine to me.

I know...I'm trying to put the best face on it.

Janet, I was just referring to the general Catholic-Protestant debate.

Oh, I get it. I really am mentally exhausted. I'm going to enjoy next week, but I'm really paying for it this week.

And yes, that's true. And wrt to those scriptures, working in the seminary I really found out that even many people who I would have thought understood what we believe about the Eucharist, and who thought that themselves, really didn't understand at all.

AMDG

Regarding Marinanne's quote, that was so muddled to me that I wasn't quite sure what he was saying, but in the part about the bishop, well that was pretty clear and distressing.

AMDG

He also says "I would never dare give permission for this", and the example he gives of somebody consulting their conscience is of a Catholic bishop out of good standing realising that he shouldn't receive communion with his family. This sounds very cagey, but also very clearly not giving his OK.

When he says, if you truly share a Catholic understanding of the sacrament then you should act on that together with your discernment of what will help you journey together with your husband, I would as soon take that to mean becoming Catholic. He is clear that if she doesn't genuinely share a Catholic understanding of the eucharist, she shouldn't be receiving; and if she does, she should be discerning what will bring her closer to her husband.

Well at first I thought that was what he was saying about the Bishop, but the more I read it the more it seemed like he was saying that it was receiving the Eucharist that convinced him of the sin of his marital situation. I thought exactly as you do at first but I'm pretty sure from worsted readings that I was wrong. Still,well I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think the best thing for me to do is just shut up and pray.

AMDG

"worsted " was supposed to be "repeated" How that could happen, I'll never know.
AMDG

Paul,

There's a different translation here, which gives that part about his friend the bishop as this:

I had a great friendship with an Episcopalian Bishop, 48, married, with two children, and he had this anxiety: his wife was Catholic, his children were Catholics, he was a Bishop. On Sundays he accompanied his wife and his children to Mass and then he went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went on, the Lord called him, a righteous man.
What does that "he went on, the Lord called him, a righteous man" mean? That he became a Roman Catholic, or that he received communion with his family?

When I was in college (the first time) a friend told me that if he said to me, "I threw a ball," I would have an image in my head, but then he added a phrase, "I threw a ball for charity," I would have a completely different image. Then, if he added another phrase, "I threw a ball for charity and it hit the bullseye," the image would change again.

I feel that way about that blog post, my idea of what was being said is constantly changing and I don't think I could ever really know. This is not goo, but it confirms me in my intention to pray and keep my mouth shut.

AMDG

I really don't know what he means. Like Janet, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt--in general, not only in this. But he keeps doing and saying things that just seem questionable. Even perhaps deliberately ambiguous. Even perhaps...em...jesuitical.

The "I would never dare" statement can be taken as acceptance of the Church's doctrine, or as "I can't officially let you do this, but..."

"This is not goo." Well, that's not what I meant to say, but then again...

I needed a good laugh--or a goo laugh, whatever.

AMDG

"I really found out that even many people who I would have thought understood what we believe about the Eucharist, and who thought that themselves, really didn't understand at all."

Yes, and what's funny is, it's not really that complicated. To me, it would be more understandable if they said, "I get it. I don't agree, but I get it." That would make sense.

Lots of truths are not complicated, but are difficult because of our fallen condition.

There's "that's very complicated, I don't understand" and then there's "that's really weird, I don't understand." :-)

True!

And then the strangest I have heard and this from a very close friend (a Presbyterian minister), "I think the church has made too much of Holy Communion."

Me: Well, we believe it's the Body and Blood of Jesus

He: I know but I still think we make too much fuss about it.

This is all paraphrase, but it was something very close to that.

AMDG

!!!!!!!!!

I meant to say "!!!!!!!!!?????????"

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