Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so. Apart from bits of the Platonic dialogues, there are no conversations that I know of in ancient literature like the Fourth Gospel. There is nothing, even in modern literature, until about a hundred years ago when the realistic novel came into existence. In the story of the woman taken in adultery we are told Christ bent down and scribbled in the dust with His finger. Nothing comes of this. No one has ever based any doctrine on it. And the art of inventing little irrelevant details to make an imaginary scene more convincing is a purely modern art. Surely the only explanation of this passage is that the thing really happened? The author put it in simply because he had seen it.
Then we come to the strangest story of all, the story of the Resurrection. It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, “The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.” On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s case we were privileged to see it happening. This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost- survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe. Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels for the Church so frequently that I have name him Defender of the Faith, has a look at a “Catholic” who is outraged that teachers who teach at Catholic schools should be required to lead Catholic lives:
You know what would really be nifty, asks Christine Haider-Winnet. If Catholic bishops would just quit running the lives of every single person in the entire world:
For several years now, we have seen a troubling trend in Catholic places of employment. Bishops are overstepping to meddle in employees’ personal lives. Firing competent, beloved teachers for same-sex marriages, requiring whole staffs to agree to statements calling contraception evil, and forbidding discussion of women’s equality in the church are now being included in morality clauses that administrators, teachers, and staff must sign.
The Reformation? What the hell is that?
New contracts, like the most recent one in San Francisco, now govern whom one can marry, use of birth control and other reproductive choices, and in the most egregious of cases, what events one can attend and whom one can and cannot associate with. Attending your nephew’s wedding to his husband, or posting a congratulatory message on Facebook, could now cost you your job.
Hey, gang! I heard that some German monk named Martin Luther just nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Haven’t read ‘em yet but I hear that they’re pretty spicy.
Perhaps the most disturbing part is the hierarchy’s claim that this is for the good of children. What our children need are good teachers and safe, affirming environments in which to learn and grow. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender role models and open, accepting communities are essential not only to the safety of our children, but to their growth and overall well-being. As research indicates, kids who are LGB or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity are up to four times as likely to commit suicide as their straight peers. Being in a community that rejects them increases that risk astronomically.
Yeah, but here’s the thing. The ONLY job of Catholic bishops is to tell the truth.
What are Catholic school students to think when they see a beloved teacher fired for getting married?
That they forgot to find out where he/she was registered?
Or hear she lost her job for getting pregnant using alternative methods?
That Christ and Zeitgeist are not the same thing?
When it comes to employment, should not the focus be on professional competency? If a teacher can teach, shouldn’t he or she be applauded for this dedication and quality as an educator? Sifting through one’s private life in order to gauge doctrinal orthodoxy as a measure of job performance is disturbing and dangerous. Is this what our Catholic faith has come to? Is this the precedent we wish to set?
Well, yeah, insofar as the Catholic Church
ACTUALLY BELIEVES STUFF
and shouldn’t be forced to employ anyone whose life choices undercut its beliefs.
Let’s go at this bass akwards there, Chrissie. If I ever went to work for your little group, “Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic organizations committed to LGBT equality,” and started writing about how homosexual activity was a sin, how long do you think that I would I keep my job? So “morality clauses” are nothing new.
Folks just have to have the correct “morality.”
The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the more congenital one of bewailing–but first, of denouncing–the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity. Unfortunately, the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practicing contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins'; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet, whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’
CS Lewis, The Dangers of National Repentance
In this sermon Newman considers the City and Empire of Rome and its relation to the Anti-Christ. Many Protestant theologians since the Reformation identified the Roman Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon and the Pope as Anti-Christ. Newman wrote a detailed attack in 1840 on this belief while he was still a Protestant. It may be read here. For Newman the Rome identified with the AntiChrist was the City and the Empire and not the Church. Newman sums up the relationship of Rome and the Anti-Christ as follows: “The question asked was, Is not (as is commonly said and believed among us) Rome mentioned in the Apocalypse, as having especial share in the events which will come at the end of the world by means or after the time of Antichrist. I answer this, that Rome’s judgments have come on her in great measure, when her empire was taken from her; that her persecutions of the Church have been in great measure judged, and the Scripture predictions concerning her fulfilled; that whether or not, she shall be further judged depends on two circumstances, first, whether “the righteous men” in the city who saved her when her judgment first came may not, through GOD’S great mercy, be allowed to save her still; next, whether the prophecy relates in its fulness to Rome or to some other object or objects of which Rome is a type. And further, I say, that if Rome is still to be judged, this must be before Antichrist comes, because Antichrist comes upon and destroys the ten kings, and lasts but a short space, but the ten kings are to destroy Rome. On the other hand, so far would seem to be clear, that the prophecy itself has not been fully accomplished, whatever we decide about Rome’s concern in it. The Roman empire has not yet been divided into ten heads, nor has it yet risen against the woman, whoever she stands for, nor has the woman yet received her ultimate judgment.”
Did you mark how naturally – as if he’d been born for it – the earthborn vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous? I know what the creature was saying to itself! “Yes. Of course. It always was like this. All horrors have followed the same course, getting worse and worse and forcing you into a kind of bottle-neck till, at the very moment when you thought you must be crushed, behold! you were out of the narrows and all was suddenly well. The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it?
As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it! – that this thing of earth and slime could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not “Who are you?” but “So it was you all the time”. All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained; that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at last recovered. Recognition made him free of their company almost before the limbs of his corpse became quiet. Only you were left outside.
He saw not only Them; he saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man. You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralysing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of Heaven. But it’s all nonsense. Pains he may still have to encounter, but they embrace those pains. They would not barter them for any earthly pleasure.
CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Unless a major news story involving the Pope develops, PopeWatch plans in future that Saturday installments of PopeWatch will normally be lighthearted, however this installment is somewhat darkly humored indeed. Catholics can often rightly feel that there is much amiss in the Church. Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who often has taken up the cudgels to defend the Church, reminds us in a current post at Midwest Conservative Journal that the problems of Catholics might seem trivial to Christians in various sects:
This one’s all yours, partner. Just keep it clean:
The bookmakers were right. Today it was announced that the Church of Sweden’s new archbishop is Antje Jackelén. But who is the church’s new top leader, who has chosen part of the Muslim prayer call as her motto?
Many have been taken aback by the theological opinions Jackelén revealed during a questioning in Uppsala on October 1. The candidates for the highest position in the Swedish church were asked if they thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer Jackelén suddenly emerged as the bishop who couldn’t choose between Jesus and Muhammed. This provoked strong reactions on some editorial pages.
Kyrkans Tidning thought that the bishop’s answer might indicate that Christ is being relegated to the margins of the Church of Sweden and Dagens Nyheter encouraged the candidates to show some theological backbone. The editorial writer at the newspaper Dagen wrote that it is time to accept the idea of a split within the church – between Christians and those who think all religions are equally good.
The bishop of Lund’s preference for Allah has prompted one of the church’s most preeminent theologians, professor Eva Hamberg, to leave her post as a member of the church’s theological council in protest against bishop Antje Jackelén’s failure to stand behind the Church of Sweden’s profession of faith. As a reaction to what she calls ”the inner secularization of the Church of Sweden”, she has also renounced her position as priest and her membership of the church.
In a number of interviews Hamberg has expressed her disappointment that not even the top leader of the church will clearly profess a Christian faith but wavers between Jesus and Muhammed.
It is not only Jackelén’s motto and her unwillingness to put Jesus ahead of Muhammed that has evoked strong feelings among many committed Christians. During her questioning in Uppsala, the new archbishop also said that the Church of Sweden has more in common with other religions than with other Christian churches, that the Virgin Birth must be understood metaphorically, that hell doesn’t exist and that the Biblical texts should not be taken as truth. Continue reading
A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.
H. Richard Niebuhr in 1937 commenting on the Social Gospel. Continue reading
Well, I must say this will probably disconcert some of the erstwhile newfound friends of Pope Francis among the secular media and reassure orthodox Catholics:
Referencing the day’s gospel reading, in which Jesus has just healed a possessed man and is accused of casting out demons by the power of the devil, the Pope noted that often in history there have been those who wish to “diminish the power of the Lord” by offering different explanations for his works, urging that his is a temptation which has “reached our present day.”
“It is true,” he affirmed, “that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter. No!”
Observing that the Lord has given many criteria in order to “discern” the presence of evil in our lives, the Pope stressed that “we should not be naïve,” and that one of the criteria which has been given is “not to follow the victory of Jesus” just “halfway.”
“Either you are with me, says the Lord, or you are against me” he said, noting that Jesus came to conquer the devil and “to give us the freedom” from “the enslavement the devil has over us,” which he cautioned, is not “exaggerating.”
As superb look at suffering by Dr. Peter Kreeft, courtesy of Prager University. I agree with his division of suffering into what Man causes through our actions, wars are a classic example, and suffering caused by nature, the type of suffering caused by the seizure that took the life of my son Larry on May 19, 2013. He is also correct that when we cry out against such suffering inflicted by nature we are appealing to a standard that presupposes a God, since nature cares not a whit about human suffering or the lack thereof. It is only by belief in God that the scales of what occurs to us in this brief life are ever balanced. To us death is often regarded as the greatest of evils. To God physical death is merely our gateway to Him. CS Lewis captured this perfectly in Letter 28 of his Screwtape Letters:
They, of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda. I know it seems strange that your chief aim at the moment should be the very same thing for which the patient’s lover and his mother are praying – namely his bodily safety. But so it is; you should be guarding him like the apple of your eye. If he dies now, you lose him. If he survives the war, there is always hope. The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it – all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is “finding his place in it”, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.
The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent. Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry – the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon – are always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time – assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience. Experience, in the peculiar sense we teach them to give it, is, by the bye, a most useful word. A great human philosopher nearly let our secret out when he said that where Virtue is concerned “Experience is the mother of illusion”; but thanks to a change in Fashion, and also, of course, to the Historical Point of View, we have largely rendered his book innocuous. Continue reading
Strange, I had always taken your highness for a perennial adolescent, who cared only for his pleasures.
Bishop Folliot to Henry II in the screenplay for the film Becket
The modern world seems intent on destroying both childhood and adulthood:
“We are becoming much more aware and appreciating development beyond [the age of 18] and I think it’s a really good initiative,” says Antrobus, who believes we often rush through childhood, wanting our youngsters to achieve key milestones very quickly
Go here to read the rest at BBC News Magazine. The war on childhood has been on course for quite a long time: easy divorce, sex education reaching down to kindergarten, using drugs to control perfectly normal children, and zero tolerance policies for child hood play that boys have engaged in as long as there have been boys. For about the same time period, adolescence has been lengthening, so a brief period of tolerated irresponsibility, circa 14-18, has now been broadened to at least 30. I see it in my legal practice, as paternity cases have tended to replace divorce cases for clients in their twenties who, to my jaundiced eye, have about as much of a chance of being responsible parents as a mouse has of learning algebra. Continue reading
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels in defense of Catholicism so frequently that I have named him Defender of the Faith, explains why liberal Protestantism deserves a place on the endangered species list:
Liberal Protestantism is dying. Rod Dreher says so in a recent column in The American Conservative, and the statistics back him up: for decades, liberal and mainline Protestantism has been on the decline in the US, with some denominations (such as the United Church of Christ) losing adherents so quickly that their future is in peril. Meanwhile, more conservative and evangelical denominations have generally held their own, or even experienced growth (see graph below). But liberal Protestantism in many ways exemplifies the best of what religion could be: it’s tolerant of differences, non-judgmental, open to scientific knowledge. Good stuff, right? So why is it that the open-minded liberal churches are dying out?
Golly gee willickers, it has to be painful to be this clueless. “Liberal Protestantism in many ways exemplifies the best of what religion could be,” only to someone who has absolutely no idea what religion actually is.
I guess I’m going to have to try to dumb this down even further and for the sake of brevity, I’m going to stick with the monotheistic religions but these principles apply to all religions. So here goes not much of anything.
Once they accept that, they’re kind of forced to accept three more concepts. Even if they never figure out what it is, there’s a reason why they’re here; after all, if you’re talented enough to speak existence into existence, why would Christopher Johnsons ever just sort of randomly turn up?
So if you’re here for a reason, even if you never ever understand what that reason is until you die, if then, does that not imply that the God who deliberately made you exist feels that your existence is important? And if your existence is important, does that not rather obligate you to try to live the way the God who made you exist wants you to live?
You can’t do that as well as you want to, of course. God, in His mercy, understands that and has provided vehicles of escape, the most sensible and efficacious being, according to this Christian, that vehicle provided by the Christian religion. That fellow on the Cross.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
God of life and death, You have taken a beloved one from me. My heart is very heavy. I recall that Your Son, Jesus Christ, became man in all things except sin and that He groaned in sorrow at the death of His friend, Lazarus. I unite my grief with Yours dear Jesus, as You stood at the tomb of Lazarus.
O Virgin Mother, you know what it was like losing your husband Joseph, and then your child. dying suspended between earth and heaven, with a sword piercing your sweet soul. To you do I come in sorrow, begging strength from your intercession, from you who fully understand what it is like to lose one so dear and close.
Share with me, dear Mother of God, the courage, the strong faith that you had in the future resurrection. Even after Jesus came back to life and ascended into heaven, you knew you were to be left alone for many years before your own assumption into heaven. You comforted the Apostles as their Queen and Mother during those years. Grant comfort to me now as I sorrow in pain at the loss by the separation that has come as a result of the sin of our first parents and my own sins. Wipe away my tears with the merciful love of your Immaculate Heart as you unite me with my loved one through the grace of the Sacred Heart of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. Continue reading
The blog Science 2.0 repeats something that most combat soldiers have always known: there are few atheists in fox holes:
But does war really transform people, or does it simply make the fleetingly religious more so for a short time? A recent analysis of archived surveys of Army Infantry soldiers after a battle – Samuel Stouffer’s “The American Soldier” World War II research (1) – found self-reported reliance on prayer rose from 42% to 72% as that battle got more intense.
“The question is whether that reliance on faith lasts over time,” said Craig Wansink, author and Professor of Religion at Virginia Wesleyan College, who did the analysis and co-wrote the paper with his brother Brian Wansink, food marketing expert and Professor of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. The World War II generation is a good one for analysis because the interest was religiosity long-term and young people in the 1940s were more religious overall than more recent generations.
A second analysis of survey results from 1,123 World War II veterans showed that 50 or more years after combat, most soldiers still exhibited religious behavior, though it varied by their war experience. Those facing heavy combat (versus no combat) attended church 21% more often if they claimed their war experience was negative, but those who claimed their experience was positive attended 26% less often.
The more a veteran disliked the war, the more religious they were 50 years later. Continue reading
Christopher Johnson, the non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, demonstrates in the following post at Midwest Conservative Journal why the Episcopal Church is dying and the Catholic Church is living:
Long-time readers of this site know that there are two Episcopalians that I don’t mention around here if I can possibly avoid it. One, of course, is former Newark Bishop John Shelby “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!“ Spong.
MCJ veterans have long since given up sending me e-mails with “Did you see what Spong just said?!!” in the subject line. Because I already know that whatever the megalomaniacal old fraud just said had nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity and was sneeringly contemptuous of anybody who holds anything close to a traditional view of the Christian faith, in whatever Christian church they find themselves.
The other is homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson, who is a homosexual, formerly of the Diocese of Nobody Ever Gave A Crap, Bitches, Shut Up. As most people figured out a long time ago, if you ever stand between Robbie and a camera, you run a considerable risk of a concussion when Robbie knocks you down and runs over you. Publicity is Robbie’s crack and I don’t want to feed his habit.
But every now and then, Robbie writes something so titanically and magisterially stupid that I’m forced to break my own embargo. In the Washington Post’s “On
No Particular Faith Of Any Truly Meaningful Kind” section, Bishop Stompy Foot is increasingly frustrated by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church refuses to be instructed by him:
Polling shows that ex-Catholics are the third largest religious group in the United States. Many Catholic laity are experiencing a painful disconnect between the official teachings and pronouncements of the Catholic hierarchy and what they believe in their hearts. It’s no wonder they are voting with their feet.
The Detroit Free Press recently reported on comments made by Edward Peters, who teaches Catholic canon law and was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 to advise the top judicial authority in the Catholic Church.
Peters stated that Catholic teaching makes it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. He goes on to write, “Catholics who promote ‘same-sex marriage’ act contrary to ‘Catholic law’ and should not approach for holy Communion…They also risk having holy Communion withheld from them…being rebuked and/or being sanctioned.”
Allen Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, offered this clarification: “For a Catholic to receive holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: ‘I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the church teaches.’ In effect, they would contradict themselves. This sort of behavior would result in publicly renouncing one’s integrity and logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury.”
Which is bad and stuff.
I believe that using Communion as such a manipulative tool surely profanes the sacrament. Perhaps these Catholic leaders should revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist. Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior. We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.
Two responses immediately suggest themselves. The first, of course, is, “Who the hell asked you, hot shot?” And the second is that before you suggest that bishops of another church than your own need to “revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist,” you might want to learn “their church’s theology of the Eucharist” yourself.
I’ll give you a head start. Two words. The first one’s “real” and the second one is “presence.” If you teach that Christ is really there in the Eucharist, then indiscriminately giving the real Lord Jesus Christ to everyone who calls himself or herself a Catholic but who takes it upon himself or herself alone to decide what that means is, at the very least, hypocrisy and, at the very most, blasphemy.
After all, Judas didn’t get the very first Communion, did he, Robbie? And then, blissfully unaware of the trap he is walking into, Robbie plays this card. Continue reading
“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
I have always found amusing a fifth rate mind coming up against a first rate mind in a debate and being reduced to muttering imprecations with all the intellectual content of scrawlings on a bathroom wall. Such was the case when Ayn Rand decided to read CS Lewis’ Abolition of Man and scribbled out her hate in the margins:
|C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man||Ayn Rand’s marginalia|
|I am considering what the thing called ‘Man’s power over Nature’ must always and essentially be. No doubt, the picture could be modified by public ownership of raw materials and factories and public control of scientific research. But unless we have a world state this will still mean the power of one nation over others. And even within the world state or the nation it will mean (in principle) the power of majorities over minorities, and (in the concrete) of a government over the people. And all long-term exercises of power, especially in breeding, must mean the power of earlier generations over later ones.…||So in the pre-science age, there was no power of majorities over minorities – and the Middle Ages were a period of love and equality, and the oppression began only in the U.S.A. (!!!) The abysmal bastard!!!|
|The later a generation comes – the nearer it lives to that date at which the species becomes extinct – the less power it will have in the forward direction, because its subjects will be so few. There is therefore no question of a power vested in the race as a whole steadily growing as long as the race survives. The last men, far from being the heirs of power, will be of all men most subject to the dead hand of the great planners and conditioners and will themselves exercise least power upon the future. …||It is unbelievable, but this monster literally thinks that to give men new knowledge is to gain power(!) over them. The cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-metaphysical mediocrity!|
|There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger. In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who follows the triumphal car.…||So when you cure men of TB, syphilis, scurvy, small pox and rabies – you make them weaker!!!|
|In the older systems both the kind of man the teachers wished to produce and their motives for producing him were prescribed by the Tao – a norm to which the teachers themselves were subject and from which they claimed no liberty to depart.…||And which brought such great joy, peace, happiness and moral stature to men!! (The bastard!)|
|We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spenser may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety. The stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed, and the Dying God has no place in chemical agriculture. To many, no doubt, this process is simply the gradual discovery that the real world is different from what we expected, and the old opposition to Galileo or to ‘body-snatchers’ is simply obscurantism. But that is not the whole story. It is not the greatest of modern scientists who feel most sure that the object, stripped of its qualitative properties and reduced to mere quantity, is wholly real. Little scientists, and little unscientific followers of science, may think so. The great minds know very well that the object, so treated, is an artificial abstraction, that something of its reality has been lost.||This is really an old fool – and nothing more!
And what does he think an abstraction is, that great “advocate of reason”?
Here’s where the Korzybski comes out in him
I may have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite novels is C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. It was the final part of what is known as Lewis’s Space Trilogy. A brief summary of the book is available at this link. The villain in this book is an entity called the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments – N.I.C.E. – which seeks to build a Utopian society based on science. Of course they are basically nothing more than totalitarian, atheistic thugs.
My admiration for the book is based on the fact that Lewis was a prophet. At least, that’s what struck me when I read this headline and accompanying story:
Britain on course for ‘three parent babies’
Britain is on course to become the first country in the world to legalise the creation of IVF babies with three biological “parents” after the fertility watchdog announced that the public is in favour of the controversial technology.
And then Bob Grant’s voice entered my head: They’re sick and they’re getting sicker.
But hey, evidently a majority of people would be down with completely re-working the laws of nature.
A major consultation found that a majority of people would back the therapy, under which a small part of a mother’s genetic material is swapped with that of a healthy donor to eliminate the risk of passing on a host of hereditary diseases to her child.
By removing faulty DNA from the mitochondria, which is always inherited from the mother, experts believe the child and future generations could be spared from a collection of devastating conditions affecting the heart, muscles and brain.
And this is how we’ll convince people that we aren’t entering Frankenstein-levels of biological tinkering. You see these great minds are merely making sure that no one should endure the burden of an imperfect child. Don’t you feel so much better about this project now?
And then on top of the ethical and moral concerns, there’s this:
The HFEA, which carried out the consultation, advised ministers that if they do legalise the therapy, donors and patients should remain anonymous and have no right to contact one another.
Yeah, that always works out well.
And if you’re concerned that we’re at risk of making Gattaca a reality, don’t you worry your little heads off.
Dismissing fears that allowing the treatment could be the start of a “slippery slope”, she emphasised that the therapy – which could become the first treatment to alter the human germ line – would only be available for people at risk of passing on mitochondrial disease.
For now. Oh, she didn’t actually add those words, but I’m sure that’s what she meant, at least if she had a moment of honest self-reflection.
Fortunately, despite the repeated insistence – based on absolutely no data presented in the article – that this procedure has broad public support, clearly not everyone in jolly old England has lost their ever-loving minds.
But opponents of the technique have questioned the moral justification of engineering embryos, and questioned how the resulting child’s sense of identity might be affected by the knowledge that they have three biological parents.
Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “Historians of the future will point to this as the moment when technocrats crossed the crucial line, the decision that led inexorably to the disaster of genetically engineered babies and consumer eugenics.”
Now, now, Doctor, our best and brightest have assured us that we have nothing to worry about. That should make us all feel much better.
I look forward to seeing this play Freud’s Last Session when I have an opportunity:
Toward the end of the play Freud’s Last Session, a fictional conversation about the meaning of human life between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis concludes,“How mad, to think we could untangle the world’s greatest mystery in one hour.”Freud responds, “The only thing more mad is to not think of it at all.” The combined sense of the limits to human knowledge and the unavoidability of the big questions is one of the many impressive features of this dramatic production, the remote origins of which are in a popular class of Dr. Armand Nicholi, professor of psychiatry in the Harvard Medical School. Nicholi penned a book, The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life, which the playwright Mark St. Germain turned into an off-Broadway play, now in its second year in New York and just beginning a run in Chicago.
I had a chance recently to see the successful New York production, directed by Tyler Marchant and starring George Morfogen as Freud and Jim Stanek as Lewis. The play is not perfect; some of the dialogue is wooden, the result of the attempt to squeeze elements from the major works of the two authors into their conversation. Nicholi does a better job of this in his book, largely because he is free from the dialogue form. But the theatrical revival of the dialogue is what stands out in this production. In this case, the theater is an arena for the contest of ideas. There is a healthy reminder that philosophy itself has taken on various dramatic and literary forms; indeed, philosophy as a theater of debate hearkens back to the very founding of philosophy in the Platonic dialogue. Something of that original sense of philosophy as a live debate between interlocutors whose views and lives are at stake is operative in Freud’s Last Session. Continue reading