Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Christian ethics—to be or not to be?

(Make sure to follow the comments section of this post, great contributions have been made there)

When I first came to VFR, in 2005, I had recently left my America-centric neoconservative view, which had grown as a result of 9/11, and evolved into a Christian civilizationist. Here I describe this development in a dialog with Lawrence Auster. But since then my crab walk back through the many layers of history--in search for substance for our civilization--continued, and I have evolved further. The following comment by a VFR reader, a year ago, opened my eyes to something important:

Western liberals secretly yearn for their own subjugation because liberalism is, at the end of the day, the demand that one abnegate oneself by treating one’s own people and identity as no more valuable than that of the Other, while doing precisely the opposite of this is the precondition of existing at all, for an individual as for a people. This Christ-like self-sacrifice is, of course, secularized Christianity, and in the absence of the Christian faith that Jesus forgives us every day for not living up to His example, it has no choice but to seek worldly outlet in self-destruction.

Christian ethics without Christian religion is fatal.

This recent comment, by VFR reader Mark E., further illustrates the dilemma:
This is also the answer to your VFR thread on "Christianity and Liberalism": so-called "liberalism" today is pure pity religion--weakness as virtue and strength as evil, non-whites are small and weak, women are small and weak, "gays" are small and weak, the handicapped are small and weak, those without "health care" are small and weak, "the planet" is small and weak, etc. It is a living breathing parody of Nietzsche's critique of Christianity--it shows him to have been a true prophet and diagnostician of humanity.

"Christian ethics without Christian religion is fatal." By simple logic we can conclude that there are only two ways to go from there: 1) Either we put God and Christ back into the equation in order to balance the Christian ethics and make it less suicidal, i.e. we'd need a resurge of Christianity, and once again making our civilization being defined by Christianity. 2) Or we must leave Christian ethics altogether.

Previously I held the first position. Read my dialog with Auster at VFR to see how I motivated this: Evolution of a European conservative. But today my position is that we need to leave Christian ethics to save ourselves and our civilization. However, I'm open to the possibility that one solution would be more fit for Europe and another for America. But my important overall point is the following: If it turns out to be impossible to make the Westerners once again believe in the Christian God, and make Christianity become a strong self-asserting substance for our civilization, it becomes a moral imperative for us to decisively leave Christian ethics, in order to stop the suicide of our civilization. Could we all agree on that, or is anyone still in favour of civilizational suicide? Is our self-image as people full of goodness, according to Christian ethics, more important to us than our survival?

A crucial question is, once the genie of Christian ethics has been let out of the bottle of Christianity, could it be put back again? Could the clock be turned back? This doesn't look easier to me than uninventing the nuclear bomb. Quite as liberalism, Christianity has evolved, and continues to evolve, as an organic entity. I do not believe that the clock can be turned back in either case.

In a letter to Lawrence Auster I have described this major theme of my blog in the following way:

A theme of my blog will be the following. An ideology/religion/culture
is not eternal and constant, but evolves organically. It will go from
bud to flower, and then to fruit, that will mature and eventually become
over-ripe. Certain things of this process will be encoded already into
the seed, but might not become manifest until very late in the process,
some of it not until the very end. In fact, to some degree, the time
horizon for the end and how it will happen, will be encoded already in
the seed.

You have described well this life process of liberalism, and how many of
the problems could be found already in the seed, even though they didn't
become manifest until now. My discussions with you--but also influenced
by Nietzsche and the many great commenters at VFR--made me realize that
Christianity, and more specifically Christian ethics, needs to be
scrutinized in the same way. Christianity has a much longer life cycle
than liberalism. In a shorter historical perspective they can look like
two different things. But in a longer perspective they look more like
the same thing, more specifically regarding the Christian ethics, which
is the one thing that makes Christianity unique among religions. So
regarding the most important thing--the Christian ethics--liberalism
and Christianity have this in common, only that it is more unfettered
in liberalism.

Liberalism is best understood as a branch of the Christian tree, as I
see it. Could the outgrowth of this branch be predicted already from the
Christian seed? The liberalism branch is over-ripe and rottening. Is the
same true for the whole Christian tree? Looking at e.g. the Catholic
Church and Vatican II it certainly seems so. If Christianity is
over-ripe, within this model, there's no way to see how it could be
restored back into a mature fruit, no more than liberalism. Could the
clock be turned back for Christianity into a time when it was in a more
functional stage. When would that be, and how could we then freeze it
into an eternal constant? And if we could do so, why not doing the same
for liberalism?

A continuation of this allegory is to consider how over-ripe fruits that
are about to rot, will spread many new seeds, and thereby continue to
live in new forms. Just take the over-ripe fruit of the Roman empire
that spread so many many seeds, before it rot and died, that makes us
still have Roman cultural DNA within us and around us in so many places.
All these organic entities have many beautiful sides while they are
flowers and mature fruits: the Roman empire, Christianity, liberalism,
the British empire, modern democracy, American hegemony, etc. But they
also have differently long life cycles, and some of them are dangerously


Mr. Spog said...

I don't agree that the problem with Christianity/liberalism is that it is an ethical system shorn of its religious component. Primitive Christianity -- the Christianity of the Roman Empire -- certainly had a religious centre, but it was also other-worldly, concerned with individual salvation rather than the welfare of the political community, and anti-militarist. This point is made in a book published in 1994, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity by James C. Russell, which is very pertinent to the subject you are discussing (and also contains pointers to a lot of relevant scholarship on the subject). Modern liberalism may in essence represent a return to primitive Christianity on the ethical level.

There is another parallel between liberalism and primitive Christianity, too: both are the products of urban, rootless, atomized societies. Unlike Edward Gibbon, Russell does not blame Roman civic decline on the other-worldliness of Christianity. Citing Gilbert Murray (Five Stages of Greek Religion), he observes that other religions of the same period showed the same loss of hope in worldly life, despair of patient inquiry, cry for infallible revelation, and indifference to public welfare. In other words, Christian other-worldliness seems to have been a response to social conditions. It seems difficult to tell whether it was a healthy or unhealthy response.

The book's theme is that Catholic Christianity, in both Northern and Southern Europe, turned into a different, syncretic religion as a result of encountering Germanic culture: a religion that upheld pagan martial virtues in the spiritualized form of chivalry, and was capable, for example, of launching crusades against Islam. The pagan component of this religion remained strong for a long time, probably until the Reformation. It is this syncretic religion that we are thinking of when we refer to "traditional" Christianity. Our failure to appreciate this -- or an active, "Protestant" aversion to syncretic religion -- means that we make no effort to preserve the pagan component or to adapt it to modern social conditions. Instead we tend to look to pure New Testament ethics for guidance. Thus for example we now generally regard vengeance as an unmitigated evil, contrary, I gather, to pagan, traditional Christian, and Enlightenment ethics.

(You mention Vatican II unfavourably. Russell identifies Vatican II as the most recent attempt to de-Germanize the church, with the earlier members of this series being the Gregorian, Cistercian and Franciscan reform movements, and the Protestant Reformation.)

It strikes me that there is a kind of parallel between Christianity and Islam here. Both are syncretic religions which naturally try to reform themselves by returning to their primitive roots, but are likely to find that the results do not constitute a viable basis for a society -- though for opposite reasons (excessive pacifism versus excessive aggression).

You may be right when you suggest that the whole Christian/liberal culture may be irreversibly rotting. My present view is that if there is a hope of turning back the clock it would be to some form of Christianized paganism, one that deliberately resuscitated and conserved national traditions but also took into account higher ethical requirements. The alternative of pure paganism is frightening. On the other hand, "Spengler" at Asia Times appears to think that the pagan element of European Christianity is a handicap, and that American Protestant Christianity is now the only viable form. I don't understand why he holds this view, but he has evidently thought a great deal about this difficult subject.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Liberalism as the end phase of Christianity, to use a metaphor - think the mayfly that grows three years crawling under pond water and then lives a mere three days flitting above it.

Is turning the clock back really possible?

The place the churches really dropped the ball and history branched was during the coninuing scientific and technological explosion in the 19th century. If the Church of England had embraced scientific exploration and technological progress with the enthusiasm it now embraces social change it would be rather different. For instance, if only Darwin was canonized, or the Church spent its energies and at that time formidible intellectual talent reconciling and integrating his scientific discoveries with theology.

Conservative Swede said...

Mr. Spog,

I'm not saying that an ethical system needs a religious component to work, in general. What I'm saying is valid specifically for Christianity, with its Christian ethics, which is a slave morality originally invented by the Jews in the Babylonian exile. Slave morality can only work well if it is centered around a master as the hub of the ethical system--in this case the Christian God. Remove the (symbolic) master and the whole system disintegrates, and the slave morality acts as pure self-destruction.

Christian ethics, with its weakness and meekness, wants to protect the Other, and to oppose the powerful. It's a morality of self-sacrifice with the idea that we ourselves are the first sinners. Religious as well as secularized Christians walk through life mired in guilt feelings. However, the religious Christians have Christ, who is the perfect Christian for them--their stand-in. He did the ultimate self-sacrifice for all mankind when he died on the cross, and he forgives us for not being able to live up to his example. The secularized Christians, however, have no other option than performing the Christ-like self-sacrifice themselves.

This is the fundamental aspect. Whether a community seeks individual salvation or the welfare of the political community, is insignificant with regards to if it's suicidal or not. Modern liberalism is suicidal, in a way that "primitive" Christianity was not--precisely because they were religious Christians.

Christian paganism you say? I don't believe in it. I believe that Christianity is to exclusivist to being able to be mixed back with paganism. You say you find pure paganism frightening. May I ask why?

The best way to go, as I see it, is to reconnect to our Roman roots. Roman civilization is the most fundamental component of all European civilizations, and what has made us successful throughout history.

Finally, the ideas about Christianity you mention, by Spengler at Asia Times, I also find very interesting. I will get back to it in the blog.

Conservative Swede said...

Fellow Peacekeeper,

Scientific and technological development undermined the belief in the existence of God. Already in the 18th century the idea of intellectually proving the existence of God was given up, and we find Rousseau and Kant motivating belief of God based on emotions or values instead. Scientific and technological development steamrolled the traditional image people had of an existing Christian God. And it was bound to do so. I do not believe there's anything the Church could have done to stop it.

And I'm wonder if not the Christian God is especially vulnerable of being exposed to the shining light of scientific development. I'll need to get back to this.

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Scientific and technological development steamrolled the traditional image people had of an existing Christian God. And it was bound to do so. I do not believe there's anything the Church could have done to stop it.

Precisely. The existing paradigm was steam rolled, and the Churches reacted with denial when their (and thus our) only hope long term was to drastically change themselves to embrace science while maintaining traditional personal and social values. Some Churches (CofE particularly) have now more or less done the reverse, sacrificing values to fit the times but still maintaining a rather luddite attitude.

Mr. Spog said...


The idea of a slave morality requiring a master could be extended to the political level: a Christian empire, under a non-Christian master class, may be workable, while in the long run a Christian democracy will not be (as we are now seeing).

Pure paganism seems frightening to me because, for example, I don't find appealing the idea of chained agricultural slaves being part of the rural scenery, as I read was the case in the Roman Empire. In the case of Germanic paganism, meanwhile, we have such delights as human sacrifice and unprovoked wars of plunder or conquest. (Why not embrace Islam instead?) Simple paganism would represent a retrograde step, philosophically as well as ethically. Also, one should bear in mind that in a scientific age it would be probably at least as difficult to resurrect the pagan gods as it is to resurrect belief in the Christian God. A revived "paganism" without a supernatural element would probably amount to a materialistic worship of state power: fascism, in other words. These points may seem excessively obvious but I don't know how else to respond to your question.

There are groups which have recently been trying to revive Roman or Germanic paganism ("Asatru"), though it seems doubtful whether one should take these seriously. The people involved in them tend to be quite hostile to Christianity. However, at the same time many of them will say that they are trying to restore not paganism as it existed before the arrival of Christianity, but paganism as it would have "naturally evolved" if Christianity had not appeared. It seems to me that the "natural evolution" they are talking about here -- a humanization of sensibilities -- is not somehow inherent in religion, but the result of Christian influences. In other words they may be trying, unwittingly, to establish a Christianized paganism.

I can certainly see reconnecting with our (Greco-)Roman roots being beneficial in the form of a revived study of the classics. But that would not amount to an overturning of Christianity/liberalism, but rather a continuation of the traditional uneasy coexistence between Christianity and paganism. On the other hand, if by reconnecting with our Roman roots you mean a thoroughgoing Roman restoration, why should this not suffer a similar fate as the Roman Empire?

Jason Pappas said...

Yes, the Christian morality of self-sacrifice and self-immolation is the problem. Hypocrisy saves the Christians from the full implications of their creed while the secular nihilists have no barriers to stop their suicidal march. I'd go even further and argue that Islam was created to rule over Christians, not so much as a conscious plan, but by a process akin to natural selection. Let me explain.

Christianity comes in two modes. The original Christians (I'll call Catacomb Christians) were out of power hovering together expecting the imminent end. The Gospels is full of turning-the-other-cheek and avoiding conflict with the authorities. With the example of Constantine, a more muscular Christianity was born by adopting antithetical Roman ways. As Romans, Constantinian Christians could fight off the Islamic attacks but once conquered they reverted to Catacomb Christians enduring their harsh life and looking towards the next life for salvation. During Islam's long oppression of Christians you'll find few like the Roman slave Spartacus. As the Arab conquered Christians they realized they neither had to kill them or convert them. Islam evolved into a supremacist ideology as Christians accepted serf status.

We need to revive our Roman heritage. The rebirth of Classical culture is what made our civilization great. (My particular favorite is Cicero.) We need to look back to Greece. Hellenic culture was proud and egoistic. Virtue, for Aristotle, wasn't moral vanity but a cultivation of powers and capacities--habits of character--with which to succeed in life. The Greek word for virtue is best translated as excellence. An impotent excellence would be a contradiction in terms. The word virtue itself comes from the Roman and is associated with manliness, like the word virility.

In modern times, one writer that accepts the Nietzschian analysis of the Christian (and Kantian) ethics without Nietzsche's antipathy to reason is Ayn Rand. There's much that she has to offer. If we are going to fight the Islamic threat, we'll have to regain the strength and will that we owe to our Greco-Roman heritage. Christianity is fine for private personal salvation and facing death (for those who so choose); but as a civilization, reason and a righteous, proper, and proud egoism is vital. We need an ethics that reaffirms the human potential, underwrites the human achievement exemplified by Western civilization (at its best), and secures individual rights that are at the core of classical liberalism.

... for your consideration.

Conservative Swede said...

Mr. Spog and Jason Pappas, thank you both for your very great comments, You have both understood completely the kind of discussion that I want to conduct, and you both give great input. I only just got started, there is much more to come. You touch upon so many things that I want to answer. I think I might integrate it into future posts.

So I certainly hope that you hang around. It's indeed an honour to have gotten such great commenters so soon for such a new blog, and then I want to include all my commenters, when I say so.

Jason Pappas, I think you might know me since before, when I wrote under the name of Cosmophant.

Mr. Spog said...

Conservative Swede, I am looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on this subject.

Jason Pappas said...

It’s my pleasure. Your discussion with Auster brings up many interesting points. I’ve considered writing to Auster a few times to see how he’d respond. He an extremely bright fellow and makes an important contribution. I took his side in the debate with Daniel Pipes whom I also hold in high regard.

I'm sure you and I have crossed paths many times: we both comment on Gates of Vienna and our old comments are on Fjordman’s original blog. Perhaps you post on JihadWatch from time to time? And I occasionally leave a comment on “New English Review.” An avid Auster reader, Caroline, used to comment on my blog and I miss her contributions (which also differed from Auster). I’ve been busy in recent months but hope to stop by and read more.

Desmond Jones said...

With respect, your fundamental position, at least for pre-Vatican II Catholics, is wrong. These are not Christian ethics, but apostasies.

However, at least one Newfoundlander in the commentary, has it wrong. The work of neo-Darwinist, David Sloan, produces evidence that Christianity in the Roman Empire was adaptive.

“The willingness of Christians to care for others was put on dramatic public display when two great plagues swept the empire, one beginning in 165 and the second in 251. Mortality rates climbed higher than 30 percent. Pagans tried to avoid all contact with the afflicted, often casting the still living into the gutters. Christians, on the other hand, nursed the sick even though some believers died doing so.

The results of these efforts were dramatic. We now know that elementary nursing—simply giving victims food and water without any drugs—will reduce mortality in epidemics by as much as two-thirds. Consequently Christians were more likely than pagans to recover—a visible benefit.”

“ the empire as a whole, men vastly outnumbered women. There were an estimated 131 men for every 100 women in Rome. The disparity was even greater elsewhere and greater still among the elite.

Widespread female infanticide had reduced the number of women in society. “If you are delivered of a child,” wrote a man named Hilarion to his pregnant wife, “if it is a boy, keep it, if it is a girl discard it.” Frequent abortions “entailing great risk” (in the words of Celsus) killed many women and left even more barren.

The Christian community, however, practiced neither abortion nor infanticide and thus drew to itself women.

In other words, the emphasis brought by Christianity to monogamy, family investment , more K-selection, and discouragement of non-reproductice sexual activity ultimately led to a higher rate of survival.

We also see the adaptiveness of the Visigothic Code in forming a Christian legal structure that dealt with the competition.

Kevin MacDonald, [can we say that name here] writes in his Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism outlines how elites like St. Francis, Louis of France and Edward I of England felt a moral and religious responsibility “that [the Other] may not oppress Christians through usury and that they not be permitted, under the shelter of my protection, to engage in such pursuits and to infect my land with their poison”.

On the issue of Vatican II, pre-V2 Catholics outline the heresy quite clearly.

The Council of Florence dogmatically defined that any individual who has a view contrary to the Catholic Church’s teaching on Our Lord Jesus Christ or the Trinity, or any one of the truths about Our Lord or the Trinity, is rejected by God.

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Bull Cantate Domino, 1442, ex cathedra: “…the holy
Roman Church, founded on the words of our Lord and Savior, firmly believes, professes and preaches one true God, almighty, immutable and eternal, Father, Son and Holy
Spirit… Therefore it [the Holy Roman Church] condemns, rejects, anathematizes and declares to be outside the Body of Christ, which is the Church, whoever holds opposing or contrary views.”

Who held those opposing views? Why Jews and Muslims of course.

Vatican II Declaration, Nostra Aetate (#4): “Although the
Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or cursed by God, as if such views followed from the holy scriptures.”

Why the ecumenism? Why the belief, espoused most particularly by John Paul II, that all religions, Hindusim, Budhism, Judasim, Animism and Islam are more or less valid in the eyes of the Roman Church?

IMHO, all roads lead to the Jewish holocaust.

Mein Kampf

Book by Adolf Hitler; Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939

page 84

“ Therefore, I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator: By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”

Liberalism is not Christianity sans the Almighty. Susan Sontag did not derive the meme, "The white race is the cancer of human history" from any Christian Church.

Tobias Struck said...

CS. It´s very true that many of the traditional christian virtues lives on in the minds of european people and has become the reason for the people of Europe to stand back and accept what corporativism has done with it: Taxes that pays wellfare for votes, multiculturalism, indvidualism and freedom without firm ethics that improve our social situation.

"Freedom" has become the freedom to earn a bit of money and consume the big corporations comfort for being spiritually wasted and etnical alienated. Small etreprises aswell as the taxpayers are the supressed in a real sense of the word.

My ethics i modern sefiroth and my suggestions for a liberal nationalism brings a new kind of spiritual and echonomical structure to the european mind, without letting go of the ideals of freedom, life and the pursuit of happiness for the indvidual - that I don´t think their is a way back from. And I hope it´s not: It is not the ideals of the original Illuminati and our european gnostic heritage that is sick, it is what the men in power has done with this heritage in their secret societys that is perverted.

Sorry about my english.

Anonymous said...

(...) I think you might know me since before, when I wrote under the name of Cosmophant.

I used to think that the conservative Swedish correspondent who showed up at Lawrence Auster's blog might be the same person as the commenter Cosmophant, but I had long forgotten about this assumption when I discovered that Conservative Swede now (finally) has his own blog. This confirmation that Conservative Swede used to be known as Cosmophant made me go and revisit some of his comments on Bjorn Staerk's blog.

To my surprise (or should I say shock), I saw two comments in which he shows himself as a believer of Islamic reform! Consider the following quotes:

"You suggest that (the superMeme) Islam must be erradicated. You claim that it cannot be reformed. (...) So while the imperialistic powers within Islam are as strong as they are, no reform is possible, I agree. I claim that we must see this in the same perspective as the reform of the Japanese society post-WWII. Only by defeating the power centre of the Japanese empire, reform was possible. (...) The Islamic Empire has never properly been defeated. If the financial, ideological and symbolic centres in Saudi Arabia and Iran are defeated and made impotent, a reform will be possible as well as natural." [emphases mine]

followed by

"Among all the religions in the history of mankind, Islam will be the hardest nut to crack And this is exactly why it hasn't happened yet. This is not coincidence, there are good reasons for this. But the nut can be cracked, and it will be cracked, eventually changing the meaning of being a Muslim. Just as the meaning of being a Christian or a Jew has changed during the course of history." [emphases mine]

Some time has indeed passed since Conservative Swede (as Cosmophant) wrote those comments, so I'm curious as to whether he still believes that Islamic reform is possible. If he does, why is that, and if he does not, then what was it that made him change his mind?

Professor McConnell said...

I have read this post and the comments with great interest. I am an evangelical Christian in the United States. One of those people who still has God and Christ in the equation of Christian ethics. I think you are right that the ethics of many of those here in the United States called “liberal Christians” have ethical ideas that are nothing short of suicidal. I question whether or not those ideas are really particularly Christian. There are Christians in history who have held such ideas, but I don’t think they represent the dominant belief of the core of committed Christianity over the history of the church. I also have to disagree with James C. Russell’s book, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. While Mr. Russell is correct that the Middle Ages brought about some changes in some of the leadership of Christianity, most of these changes were unraveled, at least for Protestants, at the time of the Reformation. While it is true that during the Middle Ages Christians were probably more willing to tolerate bad behavior on the part of lawyers (such as looting, pillaging, torture, etc.), this was never actually part of the core of Christian doctrine. The writings of John of Salisbury are far more representative. Salisbury is no pacifist. He believes in what we would call the just war theory. And he doesn’t believe in the modern wimpy just war theory that never allows a first strike or the initiation of a war for a just cause, he actually believes in fighting for causes that are just. But Salisbury also disagrees with the destruction of church property or the taking of innocent lives without military necessity. Certainly this is also represented in the many writings concerning Christian chivalry. The actions of the Crusaders who massacred the citizens of Jerusalem were not within the core of medieval Christian teaching, but were the sort of aberration present in all ages because of the sinfulness of human beings—even Christian human beings.

As for early Christianity, the pacifism of early Christianity is highly overstated by modern pacifists. Most evangelical Protestant Christians and most Christians throughout history have believed that Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified not because He believed in pacifism, but because He was a willing sacrifice to save those who would believe in Him from their sins. He is the Lamb of God described in Isaiah as bearing our iniquities and being wounded for our transgressions. Christ’s death satisfied God’s demand for justice and His righteous life is attributed to Christians so that they are righteous before God. This sort of legal transaction seems alien to many literalists and sometimes to those of the Roman persuasion but has not only been accepted historically by Christians from the time of Christ’s resurrection to the present, but is also evidenced in Scripture (particularly the book of Romans) and has been quite in line with the thinking of canon law and common law lawyers throughout much of the history of western Europe.

There were some early Christian writers who were opposed to Christian participation in the Roman legions because legionnaires had to offer incense to Caesar and had to effectively worship idols in the form of the standards of the legions. Despite this concern, archeology and other sources show that there were many Christians in the early Roman legion. Roman writings actually give praise for the victory to Christians who, in one battle, prayed and obtained a change in the tactical situation (and this long before the Christianization of the empire). It is also likely that Christianity spread to Great Britain and the other far corners of the Roman Empire through Christian soldiers. It must be remembered that Paul undoubtedly evangelized the Praetorian Guard while he was imprisoned waiting his appeal to Caesar. When the empire became Christian, at least in name if not in practice, there was no longer any reason why Christians could not serve in the military since the problems relating to idolatry were no longer present. From that time forward, there were many Christians who served in the military.

It is worth noting that despite people’s feeling that the New Testament is a pacifist book, the New Testament does depict the return of Christ as involving violence against His enemies at the battle of Armageddon. A sorcerer is struck blind in the book of Acts and a couple who lies to the early church are struck dead. The notion that early Christianity was all warm fuzzies is a misunderstanding of Christianity and what the Bible actually says. Those Christians too have believed in the organic unity of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The Old Testament is obviously no pacifist book. But even in the New Testament, Paul says that the government does not bear the sword in vain. The government is there to punish evil and reward good. It must utilize coercion to do so. But when it does so, it is not acting in a way that is inherently evil. Instead, it is “God’s servant.”

The real moral distinction between correct and incorrect violence in the Bible is different from secular views of violence however. In the secular world, justified violence tends to be based primarily upon self-defense. In the biblical worldview, justified violence is primarily about defense of others. One may sometimes be justified in defending oneself because of one’s value to others and the role in which you are reacting to others. If it was purely about saving one’s individual self when there was no appropriate role for you to play toward another, then martyrdom could actually be the appropriate thing. But when innocent lives such as those of women and children or those in the community are at stake, martyrdom in the face of aggression is not appropriate, but rather the defense of the community from aggression, injustice and oppression is appropriate. This was the basic belief of the Christian reformers such as Luther and Calvin. But this view began to be distorted during the 1600s when there was an increased emphasis on trying to make the theory of law and international relations appeal to an audience without direct reference to the Bible or to faith as the sole argument. Writers like Locke and Hobbs made self-defense more important and neglected the primacy of the defense of others. This had two negative effects. First, it emphasized selfishness in foreign policy and second, when combined with a misunderstanding of the Christian belief in willing martyrdom of the self, it made entire civilizations more suicidal. But this was not the direct result of Christianity, but rather the combination of Christianity with the skeptical secular theories of writers like Thomas Hobbs.

As skepticism grew in Europe through the writings of people like Hobbs, Hume, Kant and ultimately Nietzche and the existentialists, and as Europe slipped from immorality being primarily the prerogative of the upper classes to being the ambition of every class, Europe rejected the role of God and an honest view of God’s commands and teachings in favor of a system that included a greater and greater distortion and disingenuity about good and evil, honorable and dishonorable behavior. The problem of slavery added greatly to this distortion.

Slavery was on its way to extinction during the Christian Middle Ages. But upon the discovery of the New World and the economic benefits of making slaves of Native Americans, Africans and others, Europe delved once again into the depths of slave owning and slave trading. To be sure, the Arab world was involved in providing these slaves and the wars within Africa and South America contributed to their availability. But Europeans compromised Christian beliefs in order to justify the holding of slaves. The same thing happened in the early United States. The United States compromised and gave up its original natural law/common law perspective in order to adopt a positivist jurisprudence that enabled the legal justification of slavery despite its obvious immorality. In the end, what people regard as a “Christian” system today is far different from what Christianity actually suggested or required. As G.K. Chesterton said, Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but tried and found difficult.

If genuine Christianity were to return in Europe and to remain ascendant in the United States, and to finally seize back the American ruling class from those in America who hold the European view of man, the world, and things, there is no question but that western civilization could triumph over the current threat from radical Islamo-Fascism. But as long as the West continues to idolize the beliefs of Hobbs, Hume, Nietzche and Heidegger, we will fall prey to those who combine the teachings of Heidegger and Mohammad.

In one other important detail, I think that in asking what system one should adopt, consideration ought to be which system is true? I know that it has become fashionable to believe in objective truth these days, but to adopt a system like Greek or Roman paganism simply because you think it is effective is quite foolish unless there is some reason to believe it is also true. Contrary to the beliefs of the skeptics, I and many like me in America and the rest of the world find no intellectual and logical reason to believe that Christianity is false. Quite the reverse. Christianity as it is truly to be understood is systematically consistent and meets the facts of reality. Christianity also has solutions to our greatest needs such as dealing with death, alienation, loneliness, addiction and sin. The modern world has not liked Christianity because the Bible objects to sexual immorality (but not sex in marriage) and other popular modern addictions. The modern world has been looking for data to justify the rejection of God for hundreds of years. The oldest anti-Christian writings are easily seen as absurd today. In time the current waive will be seen to be foolish distortions as well. I hope and pray the men and women of the West come back to God on His terms as soon as possible – before it is too late.

Conservative Swede said...

Thank you Dean,

This is very interesting input and a good discussion.

I'm way behind in my blogging, and right now I'm preparing posts about Sarkozy and conservatives revolt against Bush. I'm a slow blogger, but I'll get back to Christianity. And then I will address some of the issues you bring up.

For now, let me just say that I learned to love Christianity, as well as America, before I started criticizing them.

Christianity has served us well in many ways in the Western civilization (and so has liberalism). My issue is not so much in judging the past as in assessing the future. Given the organic development of Christianity (and liberalism), we have come to an untenable point. And the clock cannot be turned back. Where do we go from here? What is possible? These are my questions. The past is mainly interesting for finding the seeds of what organically evolved into what we have today. But also for exploring what is possible.

Unfortunately, it's not only liberal Christians that are suicidal. The Catholic Church is completely suicidal too, and has been all bent out of shape since the Second Vatican Council.

Before I started blogging, I made many comments at Lawrence Auster's site (Auster who will agree with you and not with me here. But he's an open-minded guy just as you seem to be). Read these two exchanges we had about the Vatican:

Before there was Eurabia, there was Vatican II

Do Muslims go to heaven?

I know this is sick, but this is what we have come to.

If Christianity is going to be saved it's only the Americans who can do it. Only the Americans have the imperative to redefine Christianity into something that is strong enough to meet the future. But America is today deeply stuck in liberalism. With it's imperial position it's even the main source and guarantor of a world order of liberalism, multiculturalism and political correctness.

Let's see if the very sound revolt against Bush from conservatives about the immigration bill is the turning point. Everything has to start somewhere. But there's is a very very long way to go. And I'm afraid America has fallen in love too much with it's Wilsonian role.

Mr. Spog said...

Dean McConnell -- you said,

"I also have to disagree with James C. Russell’s book, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. While Mr. Russell is correct that the Middle Ages brought about some changes in some of the leadership of Christianity, most of these changes were unraveled, at least for Protestants, at the time of the Reformation."

I don't think you have any basic disagreement with Russell here. As I noted in my first comment, Russell sees the Reformation as one effort to purge Christianity of its accrued Germanic elements. (Greco-Roman pagan elements are also involved here, as I have since been reading.)

Of course you are right that what counts in the end is whether people believe in the truth of a religion, not whether it has social utility. This doesn't necessarily mean that some form of paganism couldn't be reconstituted, though. Neo-Platonism seemed convincing to some highly intelligent people.

Mr. Spog said...

(I mean, the pagan form of neo-Platonism.)

Professor McConnell said...

I agree with your observation that Rome is also suicidal. I look forward to reading the posts you mention here and on the main blog. I really admire your thoughtfulness.

Mr. Spog,
Your mention of Neo-Platonism is interesting. I cannot accept their rejection of the material world. But Plato's epistemology is close to the Bible's assumed epistemological ideas, as Augustine of Hippo noted. I think much of Christianity's trouble is the rejection of that epistemological understanding. Some consider it a Greek add on. But, I think Plato was just on to the right idea, though in an incomplete form.

Steven Luotto said...

Greetings Cons. Swede et al.

The rallying cry against civilizational suicide will be Catholicism: reason and faith, meekness and militancy, Graeco-Roman tradition, pagan courage, science and restraint, sensuality and ascetisim, wine and care for the vine... with touches of the Orient and Africa and even the Middle-East.

Witness the stubborn "obtuse" orthodoxy when everyone, most other churches included, caved in concerning the issue of birth control.

On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, the most controversial papal encyclical of the last 400 years, which declared that artificial birth control is immoral.

At the time, the intelligentsia, and perhaps the majority of the Christian laity and clergy branded Pope Paul's decision foolish. To this day, even when the results of denatality are before us, it is still called foolish. Perhap it IS foolish... or perhaps it is a humbling lesson as oft told (and constantly forgotten), that man can be too smart for his own good. That he can sell his soul to the devil, that he can create Frankensteins... that he CAN blithely go whistling to the precipice with all the proud, "right," trendy, fantastically empowering ideas... and take the fall.

What stands before us is a Faustian tragedy.

The Catholic Church's counterintuitive foresight and vocal witness regarding the immorality and dangers of artificial birth control were stunning and unique among major institutions of the day.

The Church was fully aware that she would lose millions of adherents, and be mocked and scorned like Christ on His way to Calvary, and even face hostility from within, but she stuck to her guns, never once believing that morality is some sort of popularity contest.

THAT, my friends is Pagan courage, Christian courage, Northern European Courage, and Southern European, wise courage and even foolhardy courage... in other words it is COURAGE period, which by its very definition holds within it a paradox: risking ones life to keep on living.

Practically alone, the Church showed courage on the very issue that has become the number one cause of what now is called "civilizational suicide" vis-a-vis the Muslim invasion, which is hardly an invasion at all, but a necessary replacement of missing human beings, required to keep our economies (all that matters these days - let's be honest!) afloat.

Civilizational suicide would still be underway full force even without the Muslims. The Muslims are merely creeping and seeping through the widening cracks that Europe inflicts upon herself, and taking advantage of our self-debasement. The Muslims are merely hastening events and making them poignant.

The poor have always gone elsewhere to seek economic betterment. In this an Algerian moving to France is no different from the Irishman of years back going to New York. The difference being that though apparently hopeless back in the old Potato Famine days, ("it's Irish to me! - "Irish" being practically synonymous with insanity) today they are Europe's wealthiest citizens. This is hardly a merit of the Catholic church, but hardly a demerit either. It simply means that people with a Judeo-Christian heritage have their own timings. Eventually even the crazy and the apparently hopeless (like the Southern italians) will get their act together. Though you may doubt it, this holds true even of the Mexicans.

The same cannot be said of the Muslims. In low numbers they will integrate, once those numbers increase they will impose. Being invaded by Mexicans for all its unpleasantness is not the same as being invaded by Muslims. Draw a straight line concerning any opposite values and the Mexicans for all their noise, color and corruption somehow fit in. If the arrow is erotics, for them on one end there is a hooker and the other end the Blessed Virgin. The Muslim line is unrecognizable: child brides, 1 hour prostitution marriages, up to 4 wives and women of the right hand, burquas and harems.

But more interestingly, the "new" rationalist line (rapidly replacing the Judeo-Christian one) has prostitution and chastity as equal values. I remember Conservative Swede himself on another forum linking up a picture of a huge, building-sizes poster in Berlin (during the World Cup days) featuring a local callgirl service as if it were just any other business activity. It had the same cheerful and with-it appeal of a baby formula ad or "Visit Greece" vacation pitch. Never mind that behind it all there were desperate and shamed mothers and fathers, ruined lives, pimps and exploitation, disease and debasement.

This is moral deracination and it is here and not in idle chatter about Ancient Rome or the old Wotan Warriors of the North that the real issue resides. The enemy, the New Barbarians are the rationalists, the very hip, cool, super-intelligent, will-empowered, freedom-chanting, ever-oppressed product of the Gramscian takeover of our culture.

Settembrini said...

I linked your article to my post--Is Nietzsche-Modern 'christianity's favaorite theologian? July 13. July16 entries

Western Civilization's theology- the more pity you show the more holy you are

pity the weak(non-whites), while the powerful(whites) are evil. Our evil consists of exploitation of the poor third worlders; slavery, colonization etc- the usual leftest clap-trap.

We feel guilty for our sins, so we must deny ourselves(nationalism is wrong, white pride is evil)

We sacrifice ourselves on the cross of multi-culturalism-we pity them (allowing hordes of non-whites to flood Europe and America, to become the majority).

The New Heaven and Earth (New World Order) arrives.The Tower of Babel is built.....