Inoculated

Y’all know I’m a big fan of Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York, and probably the most effective communicator of orthodox Christianity in the modern world (now after Pope Francis). I want to draw your attention to a talk he gave about evangelization in the postmodern culture, which is full of good things:

(At one point, he says that postmodern culture denies that any one interpretation of the Bible could be authoritative, and has made people have a consumerist view of Church-belonging, where they no longer see the Church as a family that they can’t just leave when they don’t like some things, and I thought–gee, where might people have gotten those ideas?)

I want to focus on a particular point he made, which is that evangelizing in a post-Christian culture is different from the other forms of evangelization. He talks about evangelizing in what you might call pedestrianly-Christian cultures, where people conceptually agree with Christianity but the challenge is to make it really sink in so they can be saints. He also talks about evangelizing to non-Christians, where the challenge is that you have to explain everything from scratch. Evangelizing a post-Christian culture is different from either of those things, Keller says, because people in a post-Christian society don’t know about Christianity, but they think they know about Christianity.

In this speech–and his highly successful ministry more generally–Keller draws heavily on the theology of Lesslie Newbigin, a 20th century Calvinist preacher who left Christian Britain to spend his life evangelizing in India, and then returned to a post-Christian Britain to find out that it needed evangelization too, but that the challenge was very different from the one he faced in India. In the spirit of stealing what works, I suggest that we steal all the Newbigin stuff that applies to us.

At one point, Keller puts it provocatively and perceptively, and says what post-Christian people think is some version of (I’m paraphrasing) “Christianity? Oh yeah, I know about that. That was when black people couldn’t sit at the lunch counter and men could beat their wives and get away with it.”

In other words, Keller says, the post-Christian culture has been inoculated against Christianity. This makes it different from non-Christian and lukewarmly-Christian societies. And this is where this long lead-up to the point leads.

Keller doesn’t really weave the metaphor very far, but I want to. The way inoculation works is that you give somebody a little bit of the virus, so that their antibodies get to work on it.

If post-Christian societies, i.e. the societies where Christianity was the overwhelming majorities of the population, are now inoculated against Christianity, it means they never got the full virus.

I say this because there is a tendency to turn Christianity, and the Church in particular, into a sort of small-t traditionalism (capital T Traditionalism is another bag, although almost all capital T Traditionalists are really small-t traditionalists) and capital-C Conservatism. That is to say, to say or imply that there was some sort of golden age of Catholicism, and the goal of Catholics should be to return to that golden age by whatever means are necessary.

For example, in US Catholicism, I often see people wiping nostalgic tears from their eyes as they pine for the Good Old Days of the 1950s when all Catholic kids went to Good Catholic Schools and were Properly Catechized and could recite the Baltimore Catechism by heart. I always want to point out that those kids who were so well catechized in the ’50s were the ones who stopped attending Mass in droves in the ’70s, so maybe, just maybe, they hadn’t been catechized that well, and maybe, just maybe, knowing the difference between the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth isn’t the summum bonum of catechesis, necessary though that is (if only to counter-troll Salon writers).

I also cringe when I hear people talking of “defending traditional marriage.” Even as a shorthand, it’s questionable. I reject the postmodern marriage culture and all its pomp and works, but I see little to defend in “traditional” marriage. People talk about marriage being “under assault.” Marriage was pretty thoroughly battered for several centuries of Christendom when arranged marriage was the norm and freely-chosen marriage the exception, even though the free consent of the spouses is a canonical dogmatic requirement of the sacrament. To be sure, there were many individual priests and prelates who did their best to fight this, and marriage in Christendom was sure as heck a lot better than marriage in, say, the Roman Empire, and this is to the credit of the Church, but on the whole, “traditional marriage” has, at best, only a family resemblance with the Christian marriage that our Holy Tradition describes.

The post-Christian world has been inoculated against Christianity because, over 1500 years, we never managed to give it true Christianity. “Found difficult and left untried,” indeed. And this is to our demerit. There are also many, many things over these 1500 years to be proud about, and Christendom, for all its flaws, was probably better than the alternatives. But now we’re reaping what we’re sowing. We created this generation of post-Christians whom we vaccinated against Christianity. Thankfully, viruses mutate and occasionally beat vaccines.

In the meantime, if our aim is a fantasy of Christendom rather than Christ and His Cross, we are being idolaters.

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  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    “Marriage was pretty thoroughly battered for several centuries of Christendom when arranged marriage was the norm and freely-chosen marriage the exception, even though the free consent of the spouses is a canonical dogmatic requirement of the sacrament.”

    This goes to the heart of my problem with freedom. Freedom as license is not true freedom. It is possible to have free consent in an arranged marriage. In fact, as I see it, free consent is *less* possible in the modern “impulsive engagement, quickie civil marriage, get divorced when we get bored” postmodern culture, because there is a severe lack of information needed to make a free decision in true consent.

    Individualism is false freedom. True freedom comes from conformity to the will of God, not conformity to self.

    • ortcutt

      I don’t see any evidence of an “implusive engagement, quickie civil marriage” culture. If anything couples are living together longer before getting engaged or married. Impulsive marriage is more common among religious couples who are encouraged to marry young and forbidden to live together or have sex before marriage.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        50%-75% divorce rate shows me that even the “living together longer” strategy doesn’t work.

        Divorce, orcutt, is the proof that marriage is broken.

        • Mike

          No-fault divorce: i remember that i only realized what it actually meant maybe i don’t know 5 years ago. Up until that point i had just assumed that of course there had to be fault present bc how else would the institution make any sense at all? Then the words irreconcilable differences flashed across my mind and it all fell into place.

          At times i’ve pointed out to my friends that if they don’t like laissez-fair capitalism they won’t like laissez-fair marriage either but they don’t believe me bc i suspect that in their hearts they really don’t mind laissez-fair capitalism if it lines their pockets.

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            I hate laissez-fair anything with a passion. The high concept of Freedom and Liberty- the right to conform oneself to God’s will rather than to the Government’s- fails when you conform yourself to only an individual ideal.

            Irreconcilable differences just seems to me to be lazy and faithless.

          • ortcutt

            Without no-fault divorce, you simply get couples making up at-fault grounds for divorce. A judge in New York, the last state to introduce no-fault divorce, stated that he had probably witnessed thousands of instances of perjury over the years as husbands or wives “admitted” adultery that hadn’t happened in order to obtain a divorce. I don’t see what is better about that system or how it benefits the children of divorced couples for their parents to need to concoct instances of adultery or gross drunkenness.

          • Mike

            That’s too bad that those people had to pretend that they committed adultery! Twisted actually.

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            There’s no need about it. Have a backbone, work it out, and you save the money of the lawyers and courts.

          • JohnMcG

            I’m guessing the number of people unwilling to commit perjury to get out of a marriage is non-zero.

          • paizlea

            No-fault divorce also gives a woman the opportunity to divorce her abusive husband without having to prove to a judge that she did nothing to justify his abuse. A higher divorce rate is the unfortunate side effect of giving women freedom to leave.

          • Mike

            In my experience it’s quite the opposite: women ditch their husbands for no reason at all except to say that maybe they aren’t “good enough” whatever that means and aren’t “funny enough” or bring in enough money. Same thing happened to my former brother in law: his wife left him bc she found a taller more attractive guy and now the kids have 4 families to deal with and are confused and are the ones who are most hurt. She regrets it sometimes but it’s too late now.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Except that the norm is not “impulsive engagement, quickie civil marriage.” The norm is extended cohabitation. As one who proposed three weeks after meeting my wife, I’m all for impulsive engagement.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        And how long was that engagement *after* you proposed? Mine was 18 months.

        I’m convinced that very few people take marriage seriously these days, and the reason is because nobody expects it to last. Divorce has become the norm, lifelong marriage is extremely rare. And for better or worse, in sickness and in health, has become until we are bored.

        • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

          Yep.

    • JohnE_o

      “Individualism is false freedom. True freedom comes from conformity to the will of God, not conformity to self.”

      As long as you’ve picked the most correct description of the will of God, that should work out great.

      If you picked the wrong one and find yourself in a compound in South America or Waco, well – oops, I guess.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        Yes, this requires Apostolic Authority and an understanding of the value of having 2000 years of history of others to make mistakes for you first.

        • JohnE_o

          Well, glad it worked out for you, then.

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            It’s designed to. See Nostra Aetate second section, second paragraph. Roman Catholicism isn’t just a religion, it’s a 2000 year experiment in sociology. You might disagree with the conclusions, but the data gathering has been excellent.

  • Paul S.

    uh oh… “we never managed to give it true Christianity.”
    Zmirak made the same point in Ropke – the economic liberal talking about the idea free market is close to sounding like the Communist brushing away criticism of atrocities because there’s still pure Marxism.

    I totally dig the Chesterton reference you follow that statement with though!

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      In a sense, probably, this side of the Eschaton, Christianity will always be “found difficult and left untried.” My point here is more to instill humility and clear away comforting conservatism than really point to a Plan of Action.

      • Paul S.

        Tres bien!

  • tjm56127

    Pope Francis agrees: “How can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing? We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them.” (http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/articoli_download/extra/Wake_up_the_world.pdf)

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Ha! Thank you.

  • JohnMcG

    I often think the phrase “sorry state of catechesis” should be replaced by “sorry state of evangelization.”

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      The reason evangelization is in such a sorry state, is because catechisis is in such a sorry state. It’s hard to evangelize a group of postmodern people who reject the concept of right and wrong.

      • JohnMcG

        Why should people care what’s right and wrong if they don’t know God loves them?

        • BTP

          Because why _wouldn’t_ God love me, since I am always perfectly correct in all I say and do? Telling people who love themselves above all that God loves them is just telling them God has good sense.

        • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

          [Sarcasm on]Why should they care if some faraway imaginary deity in the sky loves them if there is no right and no wrong? At least from their point of view, after all, if there is no right and no wrong, then what some bearded pervert on a cloud thinks means absolutely nothing at all.[Sarcasm off]

          We tried that route in the 1960s, remember? The result was rampant drug abuse, divorce, single parenthood, contraception, and abortion.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Very true.

  • BTP

    I agree, people are immune to Christianity. They are not immune to beauty, though. That might just save us, if we care for it.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      From your mouth to God’s ears.

  • ortcutt

    I’m not sure why you’re characterizing this as post-modern. It seems that the change that has inoculated society against Christianity was Modernism (historical-critical analysis of the Bible, science, state secularism, toleration, The Enlightenment, etc…), not Post-Modernism. People only complain about post-modernism because it sounds ridiculous in 2014 to condemn Modernism as Pope Pius X did in Pascendi Dominici gregis.

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      Listen to the video. He mentions modernism on his way to post-modernism, and yes, puts the blame on modernism.

      I’ve never heard that form of “Christ Haunted” before, and yes, that’s what is wrong with Urban society today. I live in a state that is profoundly postmodern- if you happen to live in the urban society of the Portland, Salem, Eugene and Bend metro areas. If you don’t, you’re likely still in a pre-modern, Christ Haunted society. EVERY political problem I know about is split down the urban/rural divide due to this.

      Still listening- I’m waiting for Gospel Urbanizing, because I know of no way to make the gospel relevant to post-modern urban life-denying good-denying populations.

      • oregon nurse

        This is pretty much what the Amish believe. Because of crowding and high land prices the parents can no longer buy farms for their sons as is their tradition. So they started working in factories along side non-Amish and it has brought the modern world influences increasingly into their lives. Now some in the mid-west are looking to move to less developed areas both within and outside of the US.

        • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

          I was raised in the heart of Dutch Flats, southwest of Silverton, NE of Salem. Most of our neighbors were German Apostolic Christian, which was more Mennonite than Amish, but yes, the same economics.

          My secular, state run grade school was intensely Christ Haunted. 75% GAC, 15% Lutheran, 10% Catholic.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      I have all sorts of problems with the word “post-modern”, but it’s the one Keller uses and so I stuck with it for convenience.

      And no, I don’t think “Modernism” is what inoculated society against Christianity. If society had been Christian before, the heresy wouldn’t have taken hold. (And, by the way, historical-critical analysis of the Bible, science, state secularism, toleration, the Enlightenment, are all very good things!)

      • ortcutt

        I just find it very odd that post-modernism would have supposedly inoculated society against religion when it doesn’t seem that post-modernism was ever widely believed outside of Literature faculties.

        • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

          1. I think Keller uses a different definition of “post-modernism” than the one you use. (One of the reasons why I dislike the word is because nobody’s been able to offer a good definition.)

          2. My point isn’t that post-modernism inoculated society against religion; my point is that *religion* inoculated society against religion.

  • oregon nurse

    Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the Good News to all nations. I think that’s been pretty well accomplished. I’m not convinced that taking responsibility for what a person does with the Good News once delivered was a burden that was laid on them.
    Mt 10:14-15 Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

    Especially in this day and age of the internet, the post-moderns have all the access to the Good News they really need to hear. The reception, the listening, and the obedience is up to them.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Each of us is responsible for all the sins of the world.

      • oregon nurse

        Can you show me where this is written in Catholic theology?

        • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

          In the Brothers Karamazov.

          • oregon nurse

            And you think that’s an authority on whose sins I’m supposed to be responsible for?

          • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

            Yes.

  • Mike

    “I thought–gee, where might people have gotten those ideas?” That’s hilarious! Good one.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Don’t know if you’re being sarcastic, but I’ll still take it.

      • Mike

        Sorry no i wasn’t it really made me laugh out loud.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    I don’t think that God loves people more than plants. I think God gives people more responsibility than plants, but neither is more important to God. Far better to live as the lilies of the field, than as the urbanites of babylon. As the city so goes the culture, but maybe it shouldn’t. I want the ruralization of the poor. I want the ruralization of the world!

    We should be Abbabs indeed (if you think about the root of that new word). But without Abba, you aren’t going to get very far, and I didn’t hear very much of bringing Abba from the Lilies of the Field to the Concrete Jungle.

  • Bud Stupple

    Maybe you’re the one who doesn’t know about real Christianity. Maybe neither of you know. It’s as simple as the golden rule. How hard could that be?

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      For me, the real answer, the only answer, that fits the golden rule is Nostra Aetate section 2.
      http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

      The heart of his exclusive beliefs is Grace Alone. The heart of my exclusive beliefs is Jesus Christ not only dying for his enemies, but rising on the third day and giving us a community that eventually gave us the moral form of the scientific method.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      The answer: very.

      And, it seems to me Jesus said and did a bunch of other stuff too.

  • mochalite

    I see your slight diss and raise you a mild critique! I love both Keller and Newbigin, but I think that the Gospel has always been an offense to the majority, even when the majority appeared to live comfortably under its influence. So, it’s “nothing new under the sun,” as someone once said. ;)

    LN addresses the issue in The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society: “I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it. I am, of course, not denying the importance of the many activities by which we seek to challenge public life with the gospel– evangelistic campaigns, distribution of Bibles and Christian literature, conferences, and even books such as this one. But I am saying that these are all secondary, and that they have power to accomplish their purpose only as they are rooted in and lead back to a believing community.”

    And, I WANT THAT SIGNAC!!

    • Frank McManus

      Absolutely spot-on. This quote could very easily be turned to use in response to those who criticized your comments about scapegoating a few days ago.

      But I would also want to talk about the flip side (and I haven’t seen the Keller video yet, so maybe he does talk about it) — namely that the heart of real Christianity, not just the inoculating version, is intimacy with the Jesus who simultaneously undermines all our defenses and offers us the world in his Spirit. If the “believing community” doesn’t have this, it has nothing.

      • BTP

        Intimacy with Christ is precisely the Eucharist.

        And the idea of a hermeneutic of people who live the gospel is, I’m afraid, not useful: the gospel is too hard. The best you will do is find a community of people who _tell_ themselves they are living the gospel.

        • Frank McManus

          … And the community of people of who tell themselves they are living the gospel but do not live it is the enemy of the gospel. But perhaps Newbigin doesn’t mean a “pure” community of believers — people who are truly successful at following Jesus — but rather simply an ordinary community of sinners who strive to live lives of friendship with Jesus. Isn’t that the paradox of being a Christian anyway? Failure is the foundation of success.

          Unfortunately we have not much of either of these types of communities; we have only cultural Catholics and a few handfuls of fanatics. (Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not much of one.)

          • UnknownTheFirst

            I’ve been to a few Catholic churches as an adult where I felt real community: notably a (Jesuit, I think) one in San Francisco.

            There is a tribal feeling I’ve run into in some Catholics in the US that is unsettling (to add a third unfortunate category to your cultural Catholics and fanatics). The tribal thing is hard to fight against in human affairs generally though, and Catholics are hardly alone in this. Nationalism is the most pernicious form of this today.

          • BTP

            Maybe. But I admit I have no idea what a, “community of sinners who strive to live lives of friendship with Jesus,” means. Do you think it means, like, trying to be nice to everybody? If it’s just being nice, then to hell with it: I know plenty of nice people, only a few are Christians.

            On the contrary, being a friend of Jesus has not very much to recommend it: almost all of his friends wound up with their heads bashed in or their skin ripped off, or something horrible like that. Safer to make friends with a meth addict, I think.

            So don’t be too quick to judge the fanatics: what would you call someone who loves a man who tells him to pick up his own cross and follow?

          • Frank McManus

            These are such good questions I can’t help smiling. And though I think I have an inkling of some answers, I don’t know how to articulate them — especially since I don’t quite know what your overall perspective is or exactly why you’re asking. This is about the heart of life, the real guts of everything, so glib, impersonal answers are really not useful.

            I will suggest, however, that perhaps each of these things has a meaning or meanings other than what you object to in them. In other words, they’re attempts to point to some deeper reality, but they can’t force a person to see that reality. To express this in a more abstract way, one could say it’s about having an inner sense of the contradiction between the ordinary reality of our daily experience, an experience that tends for most people towards futility, and some kind of “knowledge,” or feeling, or conviction, or vision, that this futility isn’t what’s most real, that there’s a deeper truth, that what’s truly real may be, or ought to be, or perhaps IS, pure goodness, beauty, truth. If that way of putting it makes any sense, then an encounter with Jesus means something quite different from what you describe: it means there’s a promise of joy given at the price of finally saying “no” to the futility of our daily experience, i.e., “the world.” That’s what the cross is about — not suffering and death but joy, i.e., resurrection, because we finally “know” what’s truly real and what isn’t. That “knowledge” is faith. And “sin” is merely our constant forgetting what’s real, something you’ve seen me doing in these comments when I bitterly judge the fanatics and the lukewarm Catholics.

            Please understand I’m really just trying to describe a little bit of what I’ve experienced and how I understand it. I’m not trying to convince you I’m right and you’re wrong.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Amen.

  • Frank McManus

    That Tim Keller video is both fascinating and maddening. I’ve watched about 30 minutes of it. He seems to be about half right on everything he says. And on those things, he’s very good and insightful. But as far as this idea of post-modern evangelization goes, as I listened to Keller — after reading your discussion of the failures of “traditional” Catholicism — I recalled my encounter with RCIA when I became a Catholic 25 years ago. I remember reading some of the texts of the RCIA and also reading some basic theology behind it before I actually entered the process, and it was extremely exciting to me. It seems a lot like what “postmodern evangelization” should be: rooted in scripture and the local congregation, centered in the story of who we are as Christians, guiding the prospective Christian into that story and into God’s people, teaching not simply doctrine but both vision and practice (morally, liturgically, spiritually), and above all setting the stage for meeting Jesus and allowing him to become the center of my life as a member of his family. Needless to say, the real-life version of the RCIA almost entirely ignored the official texts and the sound theology behind it, and therefore made no effort whatsoever to do any of the things I just named.

    But Catholics have the resources they need to evangelize the postmodern world. They just need to take their heads out of the sand and use them. I’d probably still be a practicing Catholic if I had ever met any Catholics who did that. But after beating my head against a wall for many years, I finally just gave up. (But then, here I am again, beating my head against this wall! Oh well.)

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      We have always been, and always will be, a band of sinners.

      Absolutely, the Church has all the resources it needs. And, by the way, it also needs you.

    • UnknownTheFirst

      What is the RCIA?

      • Frank McManus

        The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It’s the official Catholic process of making new Catholics of those who were not raised Catholic, and was created after Vatican II. The concept as I understand it is that the Church took seriously the criticisms of the old rationalist, intellectual, doctrine-focused methods, and so replaced it with a process inspired by the early Church and some good theology. Thus it’s evangelical, moral, spiritual, sacramental, liturgical, communal, etc. Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be. What the well-intentioned creators of the RCIA failed to grasp is that Catholics lack the spiritual, liturgical, moral, and intellectual substance to implement such a process effectively.

        Fun fact: when I became a Catholic, I studied the new Rite of Penance to find out how to go to confession. Big mistake! The Rite of Penance says that scripture reading should ordinarily be part of said rite, but in my entire life I have never once been to individual confession where a priest started with a reading from scripture. And they seem to ignore most of the rest of the new rite as well. And yet that new Rite of Penance is simply glorious. But Catholics don’t want it.

  • UnknownTheFirst

    I think the “tried and found difficult” line is one of those slogans that sounds good to insiders, but is infuriating to outsiders (like me). It implies that we looked at Christianity and “rejected” it for discreditable reasons, instead of (say, in my case)
    getting what I needed from Christianity and moving on (yes, I’m post-Christian),
    or finding other/no religion more satisfying for various reasons (but still find it hard to live up to the ideals of that religion or philosophy).

    Most people in the US (and certainly in the UK, where the schools have religious studies classes for heaven’s sake) know all about the “feed the poor”/”do unto others” part of Christianity, not just the weird rules part. If they are “post” it’s because they’ve got that message, and moved on, not because they only know about the rules part. Of course, some people live materialist/amoral lives, but that has always been the case, even in the Good Old Days of medieval Christianity
    (see “Piers Plowman” or Chaucer for testimony about this; not to mention the wholly amoral lives of many kings and some popes.)

    But most people agree with the general ideals of Christianity (and Judaism, and Islam, and Buddhism) as part of what a decent person should hold as ideals. That’s the “post” part really. The Abrahamic religions were a huge step forward for the West. It’s just we don’t need the superstitious part.

    I’m a theist, so I don’t personally mean all the supernatural part there, but I’m OK with people who do include that, though I will try to change their mind if they ask me to :)

    • Frank McManus

      I’ve always understood Chesterton’s phrase “difficult and left untried” as a line by a Christian to other Christians about Christians. In other words, it means Christians have decided to turn their faith into something other than what it really is. It was traditional European Christian culture itself that decided being Christian was just too difficult.

      It’s true many Christians judge non-Christians as if being non-Christian is a sign of one’s sinfulness. But such Christians condemn only themselves in reality.

      • UnknownTheFirst

        I think you are right. And re-reading the original post, that reading makes more sense.

        You are right, I think, about traditional Europe (Kierkegaard talks about this, and Pascal-Emmanuel mentions Christendom so might be thinking of Kierkegaard there). The genocides by Europeans of non-Europeans (in the 18th and 19th centuries) and going to turn on Europeans in the 20th, show that Europe was barely Christian. Nazi Germany of course explicitly tried to bring back a pre-Christian morality with a Christian veneer.

        Maybe my complain is more with what Pascal-Emmanuel says that Keller says, than about Pascal-Emmanuel’s point. Re-reading it (as I should have done a few times before posting) I agree more than I disagree. I would be very happy to have people really try Christianity. But is this just a problem in Europe? There are parts of Africa that are getting really poisonous versions of Christianity (and others that are getting “the Good stuff”, to be fair).

        • Frank McManus

          No, of course it isn’t a problem only in Europe — I mentioned Europe just because European Christendom is often taken as the norm of what a true Christian culture should look like. But Christianity is, in my opinion, a problem everywhere. I honestly think secularization is the best possible thing that could happen in culture to support the growth of authentic faith. (That would imply, I guess, that committed Christians have by and large also inoculated themselves against the faith.) The Church desperately needs to be stripped of the false God it has worshiped for so long, in order that it can begin to discover the real God, whose face is hidden in darkness. We won’t find God unless we enter the darkness.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            What would have to change for the Church to do this?

          • Frank McManus

            Are you asking what would have to change for the Church to enter God’s darkness? I don’t know. In a sense it’s completely simple and requires only choosing; in another sense it’s completely impossible. And in yet another sense, we’ll enter the darkness whether we want to or not.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            Well, I was thinking more of institutional reforms. After reading Wink, I think of institutions as in need of salvation as well as individuals. I think (and I should have said earlier that I grew up Catholic also, though I left it spiritually as a teen, finding intellectual life outside the Church more exciting and varied, but that is a longer story), well, the biggest change it needs is female priests.

            I’m understand your frustration with not having the best ideas, in RCIA, actually implemented, and my suggestion might not change that. But judging from the nuns I’ve known, there would be a lot more energy in the Church, so who knows?

            I don’t think that most Catholics, at least in the US, realize how much of a scandal the patriarchy is, to people who might otherwise find a home in the Church.

          • Antiphon411

            “…judging from the nuns I’ve known, there would be a lot more energy in the Church…”

            Judging from the nuns I have known, it would be a diabolical energy.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            Antiphon411, misogyny is a sin. Do you think God withholds Her wisdom from female religious? Please think about this.

          • Antiphon411

            1) I checked numerous catechisms from the Roman (Tridentine) to the current one; I also consulted Fr. Heribert Jone’s monumental Moral Theology. I did not find misogyny listed as a sin. (Incidentally, I am not a misogynist, but rather a misanthrope who happens to find men slightly more tolerable than women.)

            2) I do not think that God withholds His wisdom from female religious. One need only think of Sts. Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila, Bridget, Clare, the Little Flower, and a number of others to know that this is not true.

            3) Women are certainly welcome to be religious, but not priests. This is the teaching of the Catholic Church and it is founded upon the example of Our Lord.

            4) There are many good women religious in the world today, however, the majority that you hear about in USA are animated by a spirit other than the Holy one.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            Well, misogyny is a sin of hatred, like anti-Semitism. But I am glad to hear that you are not defending misogyny, whether you think it is sin or not.

            Your view of American nuns troubles me, but I don’t think it would be easy for us to find common ground on this, at least, not in an internet discussion.

            I think the Church is very wrong in not letting women be priests, but it is not my Church, so I don’t really have a say in this.

          • Antiphon411

            “…misogyny is a sin of hatred, like anti-Semitism…”
            Indeed, and yet the charges are thrown about with deplorable thoughtlessness–we might add other labels such as racist, fascist, homophobe. Basically they are applied to anyone with whom one disagrees on a particular topic.

            If you think women are to be used merely for sexual gratification and otherwise to be treated like dirt, you are a misogynist. If you have concerns about the excesses of feminism and think that something vital to society has been lost by the rejection of the notion of sexual complementarity, you are a misogynist. If you understand why the Catholic Church is unable to ordain women to the priesthood based on Christ’s own example, you are a misogynist.

            If you notice that blacks are overrepresented in crime statistics, you are racist. If you question USA government’s support of Israel, you are an anti-Semite.

            According to the standards of contemporary American society, I am a racist, sexist, misogynist, anti-Semite, Catholic chauvinist, homophobe, and fascist. I have been called each of those things. So be it.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            I shouldn’t have said “thou fool”, that you are sinning. I’m sorry.

            We could probably have a conversation about the other points in your reply, but maybe it should wait until it is sparked by points on Pascal-Emmanule’s posts.

        • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

          Thanks for that followup comment. Yeah, I think we agree more than we disagree.

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      If you think Christianity can be summed up as “do unto others” and “serve the poor” plus weird rules, I would say you have been well inoculated indeed.

      And yes, they were amoral materialists in the Good Old Days–that’s precisely my point.

      • UnknownTheFirst

        No, I wasn’t saying that. I think I was Christianity can be summed up as the two great commandments. All the rest, including the Cross, were Christ showing us how to live them out. You probably don’t agree, which is OK.

        The “weird rules” were what I thought you were quoting Keller as saying people thought Christianity was, racism + misogyny. That just hasn’t been my impression of what non-Christians think, though in the US the evangelical churches have been trying hard to replace the “feed my sheep” part by “anti-gay, anti-abortion = Christian”. So, there I think things are changing for the worse. Of course in Europe things may be quite different.

        I understand (after Frank’s comments forced me to re-read your post more carefully, sorry!) that you were talking about traditional “Christian” culture not being very Christian. I understand what you were saying better now. But where do you go from here? You could lose the label Christian, and just take Christ as your guide? I’m not sure.

        • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

          All fair enough. Yeah, there was a bit of a misunderstanding there.

          I happen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth bodily rose from the dead, which I think makes Christianity more than a moral code, important though that is.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            Yes, there is that part. That is a tough one for me; that is the sort of supernatural story that drove me away as a teen, and though I can see as an adult how inspiring it is, how deep, I just can’t believe it.

            (I do think most non-Christians have heard about that too,
            though they might not realize how central it is. The fact that I didn’t list that along with the two great commandments is probably showing that.)

          • UnknownTheFirst

            I have to add, how uncanny it feels to be having just this conversation during Lent and not long before Good Friday and Easter…

          • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

            Ha. Well, I think the idea that an all-transcendent God could become a man and die (and become food), all out of love is such an astonishing one that nobody could invent it. And it would be a pretty transformative idea if it were true. I wish you well on your spiritual journey. Something tells me it’s not over.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            I have to run to work now, thank you for your good wishes Pascal.

          • Yonah

            The Resurrection is the Center and Source of the Moral Code. The Resurrection is the ultimate defiance and remedy over against Evil which every baptism conscripts the baptized into opposition against.

          • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

            Amen.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            I don’t understand this; certainly the source of the Moral Code are commandments, the Torah for Jews and the moral prescripts of Jesus for Christians. Do you think that non-Christians don’t have a moral code? What is the Source for them?

            Can you explain this to me? As an outsider (though ex-RC) what you said seems pious, but opaque.

          • Yonah

            “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live…” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

            “I am the resurrection and the life…” (John 11:25)

            The ultimate moral code obligatory mitzvot is to make the choice: To make the resurrection and the life one’s own duty.

            “You must be born again.”

          • UnknownTheFirst

            I’m sorry, that didn’t help. It might be something I would have to sit quietly with you in person to understand.

          • Yonah

            In the Judaic Tradition, the great enemy is Death. What is meant by this? Death with a capital D is all those forces of evil which consciously calculate to destroy Life…the Creation of God.

            It was the Pharisees who first proclaimed the physical resurrection as a matter of plain justice against the forces of Death the Jews were subjected to. And so the Jewish dead wait encamped on the Mt. of Olives for the Day of Resurrection. Not as a matter of mere grace to be received, but the grace is a terrible one…befitting the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord…when Life defeats Death….publicly…physically…in this world…for there is no other world…there is no separation from the love of God which is His insistance on Life. So, the terrible grace is not just something to receive, but more importantly to inflict…upon Death. Death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?

            The resurrection of Jesus is the taking on of the task as a personal responsibility…out of gut rock hard will. “Your kingdom come; your will be done.”

            For Jesus, and anyone who would attach to him: It is their assigned job to resurrect to Life (l’chaim) against Death. That this is meant actually and physically, not gnostically or “spiritually” is the greatest scandal ever. Hence the righteous fear of the women and all others who find the empty tomb.

          • UnknownTheFirst

            Thanks Yonah, I see what you are saying now. The actual triumph over Death. I will have to think that over.

    • cajaquarius

      I found the path too easy. Saved by Grace is just Sloth with an organ and a choir. I will give the Catholic Church some credit over its fundamentalist off shoots, though; it does stress the importance of works.

  • Antiphon411

    “That is to say, to say or imply that there was some sort of golden age
    of Catholicism, and the goal of Catholics should be to return to that
    golden age by whatever means are necessary.”

    There tends to be a fairly strong correlation between law (ius) and deed (factum). If, e.g., there is a law against jay-walking, many people will not jay-walk.

    During the Middle Ages, which were indeed a Golden Age for the Catholic Church, European society was de iure Catholic and so de facto Catholic as well. Some people may have been Catholic simply due to the pressure to conform or because they lacked other possibilities, but they *were* Catholic. They lived and died according to the Faith and were presumably saved. The only meaningful measure of faith is salvation. If you have enough faith to be saved, you have enough faith.

    The 1950s were a Golden Age as well for the Church by all measures, but society was no longer Catholic. Liberalism, which reigned supreme throughout the European world (including former British colonies), is a very strong solvent. The Catholic Faith flourishes best in a Catholic society.

    The Faith, pure and unadulterated, is what will attract the pre-modern, the early modern, the modern, the ultra-modern, and the post-modern man. Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus: Got Faith?

    • http://pegobry.tumblr.com/ Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

      Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Damian, St Dominic, Francis of Assisi (and the God who gave him his revelation…) and the other Church reformers of that era certainly didn’t seem to think it was a Golden Age for the Catholic Church.

      I don’t think Jesus Christ called for a faith whose goal is to pressure as many people as possible to perform correct works (whatever that is).

      • Antiphon411

        Regarding St. Bernard et al.: By Golden Age one should not take that to mean that there wasn’t plenty of sin about. Society was, however, permeated by the Faith. The Church’s voice was heard and respected in all spheres of life: political, social, juridical, legal, artistic, philosophical. The Faith encompassed all of society. Apart from a few heretical movements, which the Inquisition took care to eradicate, there was no other false ideology to turn to.

        Now there were still sin and lukewarmness, to be sure. And many, many souls still perished, but it was nowhere near as bad as today.

        As for being pressured to do good works, I don’t know what you mean. It is true that humans are social animals and tend to be conformists. If a society were filled with the Catholic Faith and people conformed to it for a variety of reasons both high and low, I cannot see how this would be displeasing to Our Lord. Holy Mother Church has certainly never shied away from the use of discipline with her children.

        • cajaquarius

          Apologetics for the Inquisition. Extraordinary. Thanks but no thanks. I will choose the knowledge and freedom of the Enlightenment to the slavery and tyranny of Catholic Dominionism everytime. Remarkable how fast the followers of the false apostle Paul will default to the wide and easy path of tyranny every chance they get. Not surprising. Tradition is the easy path and the flesh loves the easy path.

          • Antiphon411

            “Apologetics for the Inquisition.”

            Hey, it usually achieved what it set out to achieve. If only they could have gotten ahold of that Martin Luther clown.

            “I will choose the knowledge and freedom of the Enlightenment to the slavery and tyranny of Catholic Dominionism everytime.”

            Really? I would prefer the knowledge and freedom of the Catholic Faith to the slavery and tyranny of the “Enlightenment”.

          • cajaquarius

            [Hey, it usually achieved what it set out to achieve. If only they could have gotten ahold of that Martin Luther clown]

            I will agree with that. It was an organization that set out to torture innocent people to death and it certainly did that job. And Martin Luther was just the natural end reaction to a Church predicated on violence, empty Pauline legalism, and Idolatry of Tradition whose only claim to its supposed “infallibility” comes from a very specific interpretation of just one portion of the writings of Simon Peter. Or is it Simeon Peter? That guy could never seem to spell his own name correctly. But, nah, let’s not question or look into that. Fact is, only the delusional and the ignorant would believe a perfect tree could produce rotten fruit.

            [Really? I would prefer the knowledge and freedom of the Catholic Faith to the slavery and tyranny of the "Enlightenment"]

            You mean that “slavery and tyranny” that made the scientific method possible? The “slavery and tyranny” that made medicine possible? The same ethics from which led to the concept of free speech that you and I now are exercising? Some tyranny. You are either demonstrating Poe’s Law or are truly a worshipper in the spirit of the false apostle Paul.

            Hey, I get it. Walking in the footsteps of Christ is hard. Living how He told you to live is hard. Accepting the empty, easy, add-nothing legalisms of a murderous, self aggrandizing Pharisee who claimed to be struck by God on the road to Damascus in order to attain personal power and prestige in a budding Christian movement is attractive. “Saint” Paul’s road is easy and wide, requiring no actual work on your behalf. If my conscience was as dysfunctional as yours, I would be right there alongside you, choosing that path too.

          • Antiphon411

            Half of what you say makes very little sense, though I vaguely get the drift. You ought to try engaging in a conversation rather than a rant.

            When you get to the point that science, medicine, and free sppech did not exist till the “Enlightenment” you betray your ignorance and lack of education.

            Most every branch of science thrived in the period before the Enlightenment. It might surprise you to learn that the father of the scientific method was the Franciscan friar Roger Bacon (1214-1294). Since you have demonstrated a fairly low intellectual capability, you might start with the Wikipedia article on the history of the scientific method.

            Regarding medicine, again wrong. Perhaps you didn’t know that the first medical school was founded in Salerno in the ninth or tenth century. Again, I direct you to the Wikipedia article on Medicine where you can read of the history of the field (gasp! even before the Enlightenment!).

            And freedom of speech? Please! The ancient Athenians had more freedom of speech than twenty-first century Americans.

          • cajaquarius

            [Half of what you say makes very little sense, though I vaguely get the drift. You ought to try engaging in a conversation rather than a rant.]

            They don’t have a crayon font for someone more your level but I will try and use smaller words for you in the future.

            [When you get to the point that science, medicine, and free sppech did not exist till the "Enlightenment" you betray your ignorance and lack of education.

            Most every branch of science thrived in the period before the Enlightenment. It might surprise you to learn that the father of the scientific method was the Franciscan friar Roger Bacon (1214-1294). Since you have demonstrated a fairly low intellectual capability, you might start with the Wikipedia article on the history of the scientific method.]

            Never gave all the credit to the Enlightenment. Cool straw man, though. The Enlightenment was merely the return of what we had lost thanks to the Dark Ages thrust upon the world by your Church. And everything the Church has produced as far as science and philosophy goes is thanks to their not burning all of the books and scrolls owned by the Hellenes they spent a hundred years butchering during the third century so I guess we can thank them for the record keeping and not erasing the thinking of the likes of Aristotle and Plato whose philosophy was the true precursor to what we understand as science.

            Something Roger Bacon borrowed from and built upon in the creation of the scientific method we have today. It is telling that the only people doing this sort of thinking during the Dark Ages were those inside of the Church. Might have something to do with the tyranny and terror spread about and them wanting people to not be able to read though (just a thought).

            [Regarding medicine, again wrong. Perhaps you didn't know that the first medical school was founded in Salerno in the ninth or tenth century. Again, I direct you to the Wikipedia article on Medicine where you can read of the history of the field (gasp! even before the Enlightenment!).]

            Okay, you got me. Thank you, Holy Roman Church, for not being quite as thorough as the Nazis when you were erasing the greatest thinkers and advancements of ancient Greece and the world of antiquity. We surely appreciate that, even if your lapdogs do try to take credit for these things, repeatedly.

            [And freedom of speech? Please! The ancient Athenians had more freedom of speech than twenty-first century Americans.]

            I will agree that Athenians did enjoy a freedom of speech, before Constantine started slaughtering every pagan he could find in the name of the false apostle Paul and his many legalisms that add nothing to the teachings of Christ.

          • Andy

            That “Luther clown”? You mean the man God raised up to recover the Gospel that the harlot European “church” had begun to lose around the time of Augustine…?

          • Antiphon411

            No, I meant the one who worked for the Ringling Brothers Circus. Never heard of the one you mention. Was he a clown, too?

          • Andy

            Which may indicate you don’t actually know the Gospel. Tell me: if you died and stood before Jesus at the gates of Heaven, and he asked you “Why should I let you in?” what would you tell him…?

        • Andy

          “The Faith encompassed all of society,” you say. But what “faith”? It wasn’t faith in the Gospel; it was idolatrous faith in sacramentalism and self-righteous works.


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