I love Tolkein. But the unavoidable conclusion of both The Hobbit and the LOTR series, according to the movies, is “just go ahead and start with the eagles and save yourselves a dozen near-death experiences.”
Also: the parallels between LOTR and Europe in the 1930′s and 40′s have been widely noted. Do both stories simply end with Dunkirk? Or, is it, rather, that air power (the eagles) is superior in the end?
[I've stolen the entire post.]
“This assertion is based on my experience, as well as my understanding of history.
In my brief time as a Christian I have tried – at times – to give my allegiance to a bottom line – whether scripture, reason, tradition etc – and found it almost immediately impossible.
It seems that a living religion cannot exist on such an abstract basis but must be ‘believed’ in the sense of lived; which means that there must be communication with God and revelation at a personal level – simply in order to sustain scripture, reason, tradition.
Most obviously, because disagreements on interpretation always come to the fore, and cannot be resolved on the basis of anything other than interpretation – yet interpretation is shaped (almost wholly) by motivation such that it turns out there is ambiguity everywhere (in scripture, reason and tradition); such that when any church is cut-off from continuous revelation, the corruptions of the world will supervene.
And I was taught by reading Fr Seraphim Rose, as well as seeing for myself, that ‘super-correctness’ is no answer at all, but makes matters worse.
Super-correctness effects scripturalism (leading to line by line Biblical literalism and legalism), reason (leading to scholasticism) and tradition (leading to micro-level arbitrary ritualism and lifestyle rules).
Super-correctness leads to a particularly dangerous form of fake Christianity – prideful, zealous, punitive, negative, life-destroying, tyrannical and evil. It has everything that is Christian except the one thing needful: love.
Super-correctness is easy to perceive in other people, but very difficult to combat without advocating dilution, weakness, and ‘liberalism’.
What passes for modern Christian ‘devoutness’ (and is advocated by reactionaries) is, unfortunately, very seldom otherwise than mere super-correctness.
I think there is only one robust defence against on the one hand apostasy and backsliding into secularism; and on the other hand superficial and prideful super-correctness – and that defence is a living faith, a faith of frequent contact with the divine and in receipt of continual revelations.
The major mainstream branches of Christianity are mostly divided between a majority of apostates and a minority of super-correct – and the real Christians are trying to live off their glorious histories (I have tried this myself – tried to be a Prayer Book Anglican, in effect, to live from written history); but this won’t work – or at least it won’t work for very long, or in the face of difficulties.
I think that effective Christianity from now will absolutely require to aim for, and organize around, a direct personal contact with a personified God.
That requirement to subjective-ize the objective is (I think) the characteristic which is shared by all significantly large and thriving types of Christianity.
(It follows that what cannot be so appropriated by an individual must not be put at the centre of their faith – only that which they feel can be and ought to be a rock.)
Of course this is not enough – and by itself or when too dominant this is excessively individualistic, creates schisms, weakens and destroys churches – but I think Christians must be open to, indeed insist upon, a personal appropriation and experience of the Gospel, of the main tenets of their faith.
And it is clear that cool, detached, playful intellectualism can be a very significant barrier to this; which is why – in the modern world – intellectuals and intellectual activities are almost always anti-Christian in their effect (whatever their intention).”
This is, perhaps, the most frequent logical error of humans, especially intellectuals, to present an assumption as an empirical finding. It is the reason why scientists, especially biologists, are so often atheists – science rules-out divine explanations as an assumption of science; but scientists learn this assumption as a habit, and mistake it for a discovery of science.
via Bruce Charlton’s Miscellany: Miracles, history and religion. (In the comments.)
You are the missing person in my life. Even the days when I am ashamed of my forgetfulness You are the ghost in my memory. I feel a hole shaped like You but I can’t be sure if I made it or if You made me this way. My life’s yearning is to hear You speak.
Jesus. Not the cartoons, the several and contradictory cartoons of both zealots and skeptics. Whatever You may be, really and really.
The world is gathering energies into a coming war on You. They vomit to hear of you. I doubt You exist when I hear them think but then their wildly irrational bile toward You feeds my faith. Such an odd reaction, unlike any other passion in their cluster of passions, this hatred of You, whom they insist does not exist – it feeds my faith. Why would the nations rage at just a cartoon?
They are mustering their energies toward war on You. Something about your name bares their fangs, and they suddenly morph into the devils I saw in the fundamentalist cartoons of my youth. If the devils are real then the angels must be.
Ah, an insight, a particle of logic, a byte. I have no use for it. Always back to you. Like the deer pants for the brook, so my soul pants for thee. I can string together words here in the dark of midnight, with my family asleep, strings of logic and phrases I like, but then I wake up from the sleep of thought and language to your name, which for 40 years has held me hypnotized. From thought and language I come back over and over to your simple name and find the midnight thirst is watered, mysteriously. How your name waters me is hidden from me. I cannot step far enough away from the flow to see it. Not seeing it I cannot say anything about it. So I find the only water my soul knows just slips through my perception and is gone.
I don’t know what I mean to you. I wish I knew, then I would know my real name. I’m an orphan; without father, without mother, coming from nowhere and traveling toward nothing. My name is in your seeing me, but your thoughts are not mine and these things are far above me. Call me by my name just one time. Peter, Mary, mother, son; shepherd, preacher, martyr, prisoner. You call each star by name and not a sparrow falls lest you mark it. To be a sparrow in the corner of your mind.
I think the whole world is ordered by your word as well and I think it goes to hell when You don’t speak. Men, the best and brightest, will someday burn each other in ovens if left to themselves. I hope I am wrong, but the last thing they would want me to doubt is the evidence of my senses. The Lamb of God is become the King of the Universe; kneel in fealty, worlds, or you will find yourselves armied up and slaughtering each other in the valley of kings. All the birds of the air will feast on the flesh, says the Apocalypse. The world has decided this is the vision of a schizophrenic mind.
Yet, the armies grow.
I can’t endorse Mormonism, but this is good stuff, from a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R Holland at the LDS Conference in April 2013:http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng
In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited…
When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes…
The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know. When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak!Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have.Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!…
Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle. Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith. So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. These are vital words to internalize: especially for intellectuals living in a media/ political/ academic/ educational world which purposefully, systematically generates questions and doubts about Christianity. Think about it: they can generate real or apparent doubts and questions much, much faster than you could possibly deal with them…
Almost all of these questions and doubts are utterly bogus; and the position which these questions and doubts are used to defend is ludicrously incoherent and contra-evidential…
- but, even if this were not the case, there will always be questions and doubts. If we are foolish enough to defer until after we have settled our questions and doubts concerning the deliberate and responsible choice of the believing basis of our lives in faith; then we will implicitly have chosen to accept the prevalent incoherent worldview of alienating nihilism; and we will have have implicitly chosen to reject even the possibility of purpose, meaning, and that joyous personal relationship with God which is being offered us conditional merely upon our free acceptance of this gift.Faith never has, and never could be, and neither should it, wait upon the resolution of all questions and doubts: to believe is to live by, and that is something we are doing at every moment. Thus faith is here, it is now: faith is always happening – and we must and do always choose in the absence of resolution of doubts and questions.
We homeschool, and so we hear occasionally the concern about the “socialization” of homeschoolers. Homeschool families think this concern is silly, of course, and gladly take the debate every time another news story appears about some rotten event in a public school somewhere in America. Which is every minute or so. But I have to admit I’m an extremist in this debate. The debate seems to be about whether children outside a government imposed group get “enough” socialization, which therefore must be a good thing, which good thing children apparently get from the physical presence of other children. Given that premise, I think it’s a debate about a fiction. There is no such thing as children, collected at random, socializing each other in any good sense. It does not happen.
Oh, children certainly influence each other. But I know very few parents of any persuasion who would actually argue that the influence of 15 children chosen at random in a room all day is a good influence. Few humans would argue that those 15 children, left to themselves, will make each other better. At anything.
Imagine for yourself what you’d put in the set of bad habits. Bad social habits, speech habits, study habits, even as far as all those acts or thoughts you’d call a felony. Let’s label the whole set of behaviors and traits we want in our children ” manners”. It’s a useful, though archaic term. But we understand it means much more than just not eating jello with the salad fork. Manners form the wholistic impression of another person that you have after spending the day with them.
The truth is, most parents, believers and unbelievers of all stripes together, would agree on almost the whole set. Most parents have an instinct for the behaviors they want in children – in the abstract.
But that’s where the commonality ends. In the concrete manners of actual children, there is the widest variation in whatever you’d call admirable or despicable, and the habits and demeanors of the actual children have little correlation with the claimed values of the actual parents.
Any one child, not previously known to you, will have a random distribution of manners (not formally random, but random as far as you can know in advance). Would you consider it useful to lock your child in a room for 8 hours with one other child who you do not know, and whose parents you do not know? This random child will not be evil, of course, and in fact may be assumed for the sake of our logic to be exactly as well-mannered as your own child. Assume that then. Assume that this unknown child is no more good and no more bad than your own child, however you define those values.
But, a quick additional factor: few people would deny what so many have observed; bad influence is easier to imbibe than good. This is a commonplace observation across cultures and centuries, common enough that is has entered the canon of common-sense.
We are more permeable to the bad than the good. Christian anthropology, of course, accounts for this empirical observation with the doctrines of Original Sin and Total Depravity, which I’ll paraphrase: the primal bad lives inside each of us, and without outside help is stronger than our residual good. You don’t have to have accepted Christian dogma to see this. Let’s keep it simple: bad easier, good harder.
We further observe that as we mature, our permeability to unthinking influence reduces. We become choosers, we become more discerning, we grow in courage, we become more sure of our values and less needy for peer approval. (All this, hopefully.) In fact, the very definition of adulthood might be rooted in this passage from unthinking conformity to discriminating moral agent. But we never outgrow the universal ratio: bad easy, good hard.
So your child is in a room with a randomly chosen child who you do not know. What you do know, with mathematical certainty, is that both of them have an inward bent that makes each other’s bad manners more likely to pollinate the other than their good. Bad easy, good hard, at the stage of life when the discriminating powers are at their weakest.
I want to stop at this point and make sure the logic to this point is accepted, or rejected, because it is easy to glide over an uncomfortable truth by fuzzing it out. It is not a speculation that these two children will make each other worse, however you define that word. It is a mathematical certainty. And it grows more certain the more time they spend with each as a closed system, with no counter-acting influences. (We factoring out for our thought experiment all the counter-acting influences, in order to isolate the effect of the children on each other.)
This does not mean that they will have no good influences at all on each other. Of course they will. But that doesn’t help us; we’re concerned about the net affect, the goods minus the bads. Don’t console yourself or deny the line of reasoning by focusing your inner eye on some good influence and letting the bad ones drift to the peripheral vision.
Also, at this point you’ve imagined some actual child of your acquaintance who you think would actually be a good net affect on your own child. Maybe your child has children in her classroom who you know to be a good net effect. And it is easy to just extrapolate from that one connection to them all. But remember: the number of connections between your child and other children are are many, and most or all of them are chosen by people you don’t know for reasons unconnected to the net effect on manners that you would use if you could control all the choices. The good examples do not extrapolate.
Maybe you don’t find any of this to be true in real life. Maybe you find that your child comes back home to you after time at school with better manners (however you define them) than when school is out. Let’s stipulate that what you think is true, is true. Since I’m making essentially a statistical argument here, your experience is only meaningful if more parents than not share it. If you are in the minority, and if parents can’t control whether or not they will have your experience, then they must make the assumption that they will not.
Most parents do not, in fact, find their children made better by time spent with other children, and you’ll hear them admit in casual conversations where the topic is one other than education choices.
It’s the mindless assumption – that random will turn out good – that I object to. You’re a good parent; would you leave your 7 year old child in a room with a television set for hours and let him choose what to watch? Of course you don’t, and I’m not talking about our pornography-soaked airwaves here; you wouldn’t have let him choose his own influences if you were parenting him in the Ozzie and Harriet years of the 1950′s. In every other area of your young child’s sensorium, you move the data from random to filtered as carefully as you can. You understand that good parenting means that you bring into your child’s life good influences and filter out bad ones, until he has the maturity to choose for himself.
Why, then, in this one area, do you reason that a random collection of influences is likely to net out good? It is counter-intuitive.
You’ll notice I’ve left out of this whole discussion what influences might come from teachers or other adults at your school- they’re irrelevant, since you could presumably bring adult influences into your child’s life from a variety of (My son’s teachers, in the two years he spent at public school, were good teachers and good people so far as we could know.)
The first step in my equation, then, is this: the average child, coupled with another average child, and all other factors held steady, will degrade in manners, however the average parent defines manners.
If this is true, then the second step is easy and devastating: the process grows exponentially as you add children at random to the group.
If this entire argument has left you cold, then approach it in a laboratory setting. In a roomful of those who extol “socialization”, do this little thought-experiment (don’t tell them what it is about):
1. Ask them to write down 3 traits they like about themselves, and the people who, in each case, they most learned that trait from.
2. Ask them to write down a moment in their lives when they started down a path they now regard as a wrong path. Then, ask them to name the one person who was most influencing them at that point in their lives.
If they are sufficiently unaware of your agenda as to not bias the answers, the overwhelming majority (perhaps all) of the answers to #1 will NOT be friends from school, and the overwhelming majority (perhaps all) of #2′s answers WILL be friends from school.
Case closed. THEY don’t believe the “socialization” in public schools is positive. It is simply a religious dogma they have required themselves to believe.
Or maybe you doubt the validity of that laboratory. Use yourself, your total experience at school, as an experiment of one, and ask yourself what social formation did you get at school that has been determinative for your adult life?
“To work in teams.” I deny that public school teaches children to work in teams better than they would if they were raised by wolves. This is simply not demonstrated. If this is true, then the children who come out of public schools would be more team-oriented than others…has anybody, anywhere, claimed to have actually observed this?
“To tolerate differences.” Honestly? Was it your experience in school that you learned from the other children around you to tolerate differences? This is a confusion of two things: you do see and experience more different types of people at a school of hundreds of kids, but you don’t learn to tolerate them. The first is simple numbers, the second is a personal virtue. The first is of little value, in and of itself — the second is valuable, and comes from parents. The truth is, children are notoriously intolerant of differences. In crowds, they are positively fascist.
“To negotiate.” This is an argument that has come late, at least in my hearing, and is frankly the oddest. Children learn to “negotiate” by being around a wider variety of children? I negotiate for a living; I’ve never seen this learning process in any children, nor have I observed the skill especially in the those parents who value it. I suspect it is another fiction.
I am not arguing that all parents should homeschool (not all should), nor that public school is bad (of course they aren’t), nor that all children are made worse by public school (not all are.) And most parents simply can’t school at home because they need both incomes. They should not feel guilty about that. I’m not even saying that public school is terrible for children. It isn’t. I’m just trying to get past a fiction so that parents of all kinds can have a slightly more honest conversation.
I’m simply arguing that the term socialization, which means, in most speakers’ mouths something like “a process wherein children make each other better” - does not exist. Children, by definition, do not make each other better as a net effect. There is no debate, then, about how to make up for the socialization the child misses by being at home.
Missing it, for us, is the point.
Lost in all the prophecy-mongering that occupies so much attention in some circles of evangelicalism is this, from St. Paul’s: “As time nears the end, the love of many will grow cold.” For those seeking a sign, there’s a tangible sign.
I see it happening. As modernity advances, it becomes more important to be “cool”, but few ask why “cool” is good. Why are we attracted to this quality ? I think we mistake it for peace, or mastery, and it’s such a sophomoric mistake. It’s not hard to be a master of nothing. It’s not hard to be at peace about nothing. The easiest stance is disdain, and the cool person disdains in all four directions. He likes nothing, he loves no-one, he is never passionate. He specializes in irony. His voice is sarcastic, and deflects propositional truth by finding selfishness all around. Sour is his heart, and sour is the world.
The word “cool” originally described, in American pop culture, the disaffected, disengaged, (mostly male) island of a personality who needs nothing. It was a desirable mask for a small subset of people who were just outside the mainstream. But like most such niche curios, it eventually mainstreamed, as bored suburban teenagers found yet another nonconformist meme to adopt in large numbers, out of fear of seeming conformist. In the last few decades the word has come be an all-purpose approval grunt. It means just “I like that” in the least detailed sense, thus relieving the speaker from the burden of specific vocabulary. It is cool to see cool and say “cool”, because you can approve of things without working at it. And “Cool”, as a personality type, as terminal boredom, is now normal, and self-reinforcing.
But my interest here is prophecy, not culture. Is love indeed growing cold?
Theists like to say no morality is possible without God, and secularists like to reply by pointing out morality among the Godless. Both miss the point of the question, which is whether morality decreases over time in a secular civilization. No-one denies that individual unbelievers are good; the dispute is whether their goodness is borrowed from ancestors, or not. Is the morality of a civilization with just the half-life of an earlier energy burst from outside the material system? Or is it nourished constantly from within the material DNA?
My thesis is simple: ”coolness” is nothing more profound than a rejection of love, and follows the loss of faith. The “cool” is…death! Exegeting itself.