Thursday, December 13, 2007

As For Secularism

“It is fairly obvious that there is some direct, indissoluble bond between faith and the will to a future, or between the desire for a future and the imagination of eternity. And I think this is why post-Christian Europe seems to lack not only the moral and imaginative resources for sustaining its civilization, but even any good reason for continuing to reproduce. There are of course those few idealists who harbor some kind of unnatural attachment to that misbegotten abomination, the European Union--that grand project for forging an identity for post-Christian civilization out of the meager provisions of heroic humanism or liberal utopianism or ethical sincerity--but, apart from a bureaucratic superstate, providently and tenderly totalitarian, one cannot say what there is to expect from that quarter: certainly nothing on the order of some great cultural renewal that might inspire a new zeal for having children…

A culture--a civilization--is only as great as the religious ideas that animate it; the magnitude of a people's cultural achievements is determined by the height of its spiritual aspirations. One need only turn one's gaze back to the frozen mires and fetid marshes of modern Europe, where once the greatest of human civilizations resided, to grasp how devastating and omnivorous a power metaphysical boredom is. The eye of faith presumes to see something miraculous within the ordinariness of the moment, mysterious hints of an intelligible order calling out for translation into artifacts, institutions, ideas, and great deeds, but boredom's disenchantment renders the imagination inert and desire torpid.” –David B. Hart, “Religion in America: Ancient and Modern,” New Criterion, March 2004, p. 6.

The fertility rate of all of the European countries is below replacement level.

“He said: We have observed that theoretical knowledge is something beautiful and valuable and that some theoretical sciences surpass others, being superior either in one or both of two things- namely, in the eminence of the subject and in the firmness of the demonstration occurring in that art…knowledge of the soul is beneficial for every science one intends to learn, and this is due to three considerations: because knowledge of the principles of every science is attained in this science; because other sciences posit as a principle that which has been explained here…and because a main part of the knowledge of a particular science can be attained only by knowing it…For a main part of the natural scientist’s study deals with animal life, knowledge of which is completed only by knowing the soul, the most noble principle of animal life.”-Averroes, Middle Commentary on Aristotle’s De anima, p. 1. Aristotle does not generally strike one as bored though whether he strikes one as boring may be a different question. Aristotle here is expressing a robust and exalted view of knowledge of the soul. In secular and materialist philosophy there simply is not a soul. The counterpart of the “death of God” is the death of the soul. Isn’t it noteworthy that the announcement of the “death of God,” received with all seriousness in the West, preceded a frenzy of man's self-destruction suggestive of a man-made Apocalypse? In Christian terms this may be understood with the help of the following: “The ‘love of God,’ as a love accepted by us, consists precisely in the fact that we for our part love him. We are so inclined to the erroneous division of this one love into two separate acts because we have forgotten to regard man in his indissoluble connection with God and have preferred instead to take as our starting point the false conception of ‘man in himself,’ man as one who has his being in himself. All this is expressed in the fore-mentioned section of the Apology [of the Augsburg Confession] which says that in his mercy God himself becomes for us a lovable object: ‘We cannot love God until we have grasped his mercy by faith. Only then does he become an object that can be loved.’ In the very fact of his being revealed to us as the loving subject, the one who does the loving, in that very fact is God the lovable object; that is, we for our part are now subjects who love. We are so in virtue of this fact. We do not have to become loving subjects, nor demonstrate that we are grateful (at any rate this command belongs to a different context): we simply are! Our love appears here as the reverse side of the love of God.” –Helmut Thielicke, Theological Ethics: Foundations, Vol. 1, p. 66-67. [Thielicke was a German pastor who oposed Hitler when it counted the most.] There is a profound reason that in the Scriptures the analogy of marriage is repeatedly returned to for God’s relationship with Israel and for His relationship with the Church of Christ Jesus. Now I am going get a little graphic, but I think the following further illustrates something of the nature of the ideal, analogous relationship, the perfect love and oneness, that is conceived of as the only wholesome state of relationship between God and man in the Christian religion: “After they married she learned to feel their skin as double-sided. They felt a pause. Theirs was too much feeling to push through the crack that led down to the dim world of time and stuff. That world was gone. They held themselves alert only in those few million cells where they were touched. She learned from those cells his awareness and his courtesy. Love so sprang at her, she honestly thought no one had ever looked into it. Where was it in literature? Someone would have written something. She must not have recognized it. Time to read everything again.” –Annie Dillard, The Maytrees, p. 31. The love of God and man is two-sided and seamless. The result of the death of one, or the death to one, is the death of the other. Secularism promises only further death, aimlessness and the boredom of nihilism because in it man has lost their partner for life.

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