Leddihn & McAtee on the Impact of Religion

“Of all the ‘external’ elements shaping the character of individuals as well as of groups religion is, perhaps, the strongest. This should not surprise us, because every higher religion offers us an almost complete picture of a meaningful universe; it points out a destination and a way. It is, therefore, self-evident that different religions involve different ways of life: they will influence our temperaments.We should never underestimate the effect of such other factors as geography, meteorology, biology, nourishment, history, sociology; yet the great changes resulting from the conversion of large groups cannot leave us unimpressed. Even after a short time, entirely new behavior patterns emerge. One has only to compare the inhabitants of Catholic and of Protestant islands in the Hebrides in order to appreciate the importance of the religious factor; or to compare villages belonging to these two different religious communities in central Germany, in Hungary, in the Netherlands, Latvia or Switzerland. An invisible line divides the cultural patterns of these communities, even thought they speak the same language and obey the same laws.”

Liberty or Equality — pg. 179
Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

1.) Don’t miss that we are talking here of “external” elements. Religion is external inasmuch as it is that which is from outside of us (from above) that forms the man and/or people. It is an outside element that adjusts our most inward dispositions. It is an outside element that shapes both the individual and the the institutions and social order that ends up contributing in shaping us.

There are internal elements as well that have need to be considered. For example, who God has made us to be in our generations — our very DNA — is a great factor to be considered in this matter of the factors that shape character. Religion, as an external element, never works to shape the character of individuals or people groups apart from whom God has made them to be in their very corporeality.

To insist that religion is that alone which forms a man or people group would be fall into the error of Gnosticism.  To insist that heredity alone forms a man or people group would be to fall into the errors of materialism. To insist that man can be only understood in terms of his environment would be the error of Skinnerian Behaviorism.

2.) For those with eyes to see, all of life is a carefully choreographed religious dance. From our habits, to our social order, to our Institutions, to our inventions, to our calendars, to our shopping malls, to our entertainments, to our art, to our science, to our fashions, everything is screaming our religion and so our Theology. Our everyday life is ablaze with theological meaning and significance. This is so true that we can paraphrase Lenin by saying, “culture is but a mere continuation of religion.” For those with eyes to see looking at a culture and a social order is to look upon religion in action.

3.) The great lie of Modernity and Anabaptist and R2K theology  is that religion can be cordoned off and isolated to some private realm. One can insist on this aberration all they like but the passion of the insistence does not make it so. The great error of all Enlightenment project thinking is that reality can be compartmentalized into air-tight compartments that have little or no relation to one another. This lack of systemic thinking has been the genesis for the elimination of Biblical Christianity and the rise of Humanism.

4.) Note that not even a shared language and shared laws can strip the impact of different religions upon the same people. We see this in spades today. Cultural Marxist Americans from the same families are radically different from Biblical Christians from the same families. Even family members who differ in their Christianities, let’s say Pentecostal vs. Roman Catholic vs. Reformed,  are going to be very different in the way that people who hold to those different faiths lean into life, in the their disposition and attitudes, in the way they lean into life.  The more exacting each is, in regard to their faith, the more sharp the contrasts.

Thumbnail Sketch of James K. A. Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom”

Finished James K. A. Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom; Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation.” There are some quality ideas in the book about the way pagan culture works in us to shape us via its liturgies. I was glad for this reminder of the necessity to be epistemologically self conscious about what is seeking to form me. There are also some excellent reflections on what happens in our Church liturgies from the opening of God’s Greeting to the closing of the Benediction.  So good are these insights that I can recommend this book just for that chapter.

However, having said that Smith’s idea that the social imaginary has priority over a Christian worldview is not convincing. In this argumentation Smith is tipping his postmodern hand over and over again as seen in the advocacy of narrative over discourse, and the use of a host of what might be characterized as false dichotomies; orthopraxy precedes orthodoxy, instinct trumps rationality, animal desire precedes human reflection, heart informs mind, liturgy shapes worldveiw, habit creates thinking about habit, social imaginary over worldview thinking, and pre-cognitive over cognitive.

The idea that a sanctified imagination is to be prioritized and preferred above sanctified rational thought begs any number of questions. For example, Smith insists that liturgy trumps worldview and yet our Churches are Liturgy thick with little to show in terms of Christ formation. Smith might well counter that we have to re-think our Liturgy and that might well be true but how do we re-think our liturgy without using a worldview to correct a weak liturgy?

Smith’s insistence that the heart (desire) takes precedence over the mind (rational) is thin at best and dangerous at worst. The very idea that the heart and mind are to be dichotomized like this is the work of some kind of dualistic fever. When it comes to the use of the word “heart” in Scripture a survey reveals, when taken in context, that approximately 8 out of 10 verses in Scripture that what is being spoken of is a person’s mind. 1 out of 10 verses relate the heart to volition. Another 1 of 10 verses have the heart standing for the emotions. This indicates that in its overwhelming usage in Scripture heart and mind are synonymous. Smith makes too much capital out of the difference between head and heart. 

Having said that Smith does lay his finger on the pulse of a real problem in the Church in the West today and that is the fact that so many of our children in both our Churches and our Church colleges end up having a Christianity that is only marginally different then the paganism all around them. Somewhere, Christian worldview training isn’t enough. Now, for my money I would say that is due to the fact that we are allowing the culture to interpret us as opposed to or interpreting the culture. Our Christian worldview training is failing because, at the end of the day it is not getting to the essence of thinking God’s thoughts after him. Smith realizes this and is to be lauded for that realization however, I am not convinced that his solution of a consecrated imagination as shaped and formed by worship habits is the answer. In fact, I’m convinced it is not the answer. Indeed, the answer that Smith offers up sounds to much like the idea that the Worship service is to be used as a vehicle of manipulation to form people quite without their being aware of how they are being formed. I fear there is more of Edward Bernays in Smith’s theories then there are Jesus Christ.

At the end of the book Smith changes focus to the Christian University and as he explains his vision I think what Smith wants to build is a Christian commune as a University. He prescribes potentials courses which would reduce the amount of academic work in favor of “learning to read a stranger in a coffee shop,” or to be involved in matters that are directly related to “issues of poverty.” Given the disappearance of the Christian mind in the West today this idea strikes me as potentially disastrous if it was to be followed.

Smith’s book has much to recommend it and I think it is well worth a read but at the end of the day his worldview about social imaginary is not a worldview that I can regard as wholesome.

The Reality of Hell

“At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause.”

“What a spectacle. . .when the world. . .and its many products, shall be consumed in one great flame! How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? What my derision? Which sight gives me joy? As I see. . .illustrious monarchs. . . groaning in the lowest darkness, Philosophers. . .as fire consumes them! Poets trembling before the judgment-seat of. . .Christ! I shall hear the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; view play-actors. . .in the dissolving flame; behold wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows. . .What inquisitor or priest in his munificence will bestow on you the favor of seeing and exulting in such things as these? Yet even now we in a measure have them by faith in the picturings of imagination.”

De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX

For the Augustinians…….“They who shall enter into the joy of the Lord shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. . .The saints’. . . knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted. . .with the eternal sufferings of the lost.”

Augustine, The City of God

SECTION 1.“In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned.”

Summa Theologica

(When the saints in glory shall see the wrath of God executed on ungodly men, it will be no occasion of grief to them, but of rejoicing.)

It is not only the sight of God’s wrath executed on those wicked men who are of the antichristian church, which will be occasion of rejoicing to the saints in glory; but also the sight of the destruction of all God’s enemies: whether they have been the followers of antichrist or not, that alters not the case, if they have been the enemies of God, and of Jesus Christ. All wicked men will at last be destroyed together, as being united in the same cause and interest, as being all of Satan’s army. They will all stand together at the day of judgment, as being all of the same company.

And if we understand the text to have respect only to a temporal execution of God’s wrath on his enemies, that will not alter the case. The thing they are called upon to rejoice at, is the execution of God’s wrath upon his and their enemies. And if it be matter of rejoicing to them to see justice executed in part upon them, or to see the beginning of the execution of it in this world; for the same reason will they rejoice with greater joy, in beholding it fully executed. For the thing here mentioned as the foundation of their joy, is the execution of just vengeance: Rejoice, for God hath avenged you on her….

At the day of judgment, the saints in glory at Christ’s right hand, will see the wicked at the left hand in their amazement and horror, will hear the judge pronounce sentence upon them, saying, 191 “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;” and will see them go away into everlasting punishment. But the Scripture seems to hold forth to us, that the saints will not only see the misery of the wicked at the day of judgment, but the fore-mentioned texts imply, that “the state of the damned in hell will be in the view of the heavenly inhabitants; that the two worlds of happiness and misery will be in view of each other.

Jonathan Edwards
The End of the Wicked Contemplated by the Righteous
The Torments of the Wicked in Hell, No Occasion of Grief to the Saints in Heaven

In God’s providence, a few days ago I found myself in two different discussions in two different situations with two different people who do not know each other concerning the reality of Hell. Both of these folks were what has come to be known as “Annihilationists.” Annihiliationism is doctrine that some of have embraced (J. W. Wenham, John Stott) which denies most especially the eternality of Hell. Some practitioners of Annhiliationism insists that those outside of Christ cease to exist upon death (soul sleep), while other practitioners will allow for a Temporal Hell where the Rebel against God suffers the torments of Hell for a season that is fitting for their crime whereupon God snuffs them out of existence.

What I am going to do below is give a few observations about the importance of the doctrine of Hell as a concept. I am not trying to here, build a Biblical case for Hell. I am not doing so, not because it can’t be done, but rather because the reality of Hell as well as its eternality is so obvious to a natural reading of Scripture it strikes me that the people who deny the doctrine of Hell or its eternality are beyond convincing. The denial of the doctrine of Hell as well as a denial of the eternality of Hell is like the denial that Scripture prohibits women from serving in ecclesiastical office. In both cases, the Scriptures are so obvious in their articulation that trying to convince those, who are reading through or past the Scriptures, that they are in error is largely a waste of time given the pre-commitments of those who are doing the denying.

So, what I’m doing below is just giving a few observations surrounding the denial of Hell.

1.) The denial of the eternality of Hell is all the more dangerous because on the surface it seems so benign. This denial is not like the denial of the Resurrection or the Virgin Birth. No one doubts that someone who denies Hell can be in Union with Christ. (Though I would insist that such a view leaves them open to the charge of having low views of Scripture.) I do insist though that people who are Annhilationists aren’t looking under the hood of that denial to see the implications of what they are denying.

2.)  The denial of the eternality of Hell is another example of putative Christians or unlearned Christians or immature Christians attempting to make God out to be nicer than He makes Himself out to be. It is an attempt to save God from being God. It is sentimentality trying to rescue the alleged mean glowering character of God. It is another example of do gooders, who by doing their good, end up making Christianity crueler then any Devil could. This denial of the eternality of Hell is taken up by those who, at the very least think, “My God would never be that mean.” It is the argument which attempts to make God “reasonable.”

3.) Annihilationism, does not seem to comprehend that by altering the anchor example of God’s eternal justice (The condemnation to Eternal punishment for those who rebelled against God and His Christ) that the effect is a relativizing of temporal justice and punishment. If the anchor of justice is set loose and diminished in the Cosmic Divine realm the effect is to set adrift any ideas of absolute justice in the temporal realm.  If God’s justice is altered in terms of Hell and / or its duration then justice is the realm of man can be relativized and altered as well.

4.) Those who insist upon the conditionality of Hell or deny the eternality of Hell are those who will, in themselves or in their generations, become those who rebel against the whole concept of fixed Justice. When we deny the proper required Justice applied (eternal Hell) against those who commit crimes against God’s character and who do not find forgiveness in Christ, we will, over the course of time, deny the proper required justice against those who commit other lesser crimes. If the required proper punishment is denied, in our thinking, against those who commit the greatest of all crimes (unrepentant rebellion against the Character of God) then the consequence of that will eventually be the denial of justice implemented against all other lesser crimes.

Getting rid of the eternal character of Hell guarantees the eventual arise of Hell on earth.

  5.) The Holiness of God is infinite and as such rebellion against God’s Holiness requires eternal punishment for those who do not close with Christ. The denial of the eternality of Hell is a denial of the august and majestic character of God. Low views of Hell insure, and in turn cause, low views of God.

Envision my point this way. If one was to change the penalty for murder from the death penalty to a $100.00 fine the obvious impact would be to cheapen the value of a life. Just so when we argue that Hell is not eternal punishment but only ceasing to exist we cheapen the value of God’s Majesty, Holiness and Transcendence.

The doctrine of Hell is a case where the punishment fits the crime. Any lesser punishment would suggest a lesser crime. The suggestion of a lesser crime would suggest that an offense against the person of God is somehow an offense that shouldn’t have the fullest possible consequences.  The eternality of Hell corresponds to the Majesty of God and His Law.

6.) Another way to frame this is to note how a threat on a President’s life brings greater punishment then that same threat levied against a homeless drunk. There is a greater punishment because the President is a greater person. The same principle applies here. When we offer up lesser penalties we communicate that God is more like the homeless drunk then He is like the President.

Metaphor On How Worldview Shifts Happen

Imagine a line that begins in a fire red color. As the line continues the Red is diluted more and more until you get to a point where you barely notice that there is any redness in the line. From there you notice a almost imperceptible change in the color of the continuing line. Now, ever so slowly, the line is turning Green. Th e transition is ever so slight, but eventually the line goes from the slight Green to a Green that is as flaming bright as where the line started as Red.

I have just described how Worldviews shift. Starting ever so slightly the worldview Red loses its pungency but at the same time it loses its pungency a new pungency is taking its place ever so subtly. Like our metaphoric lines Worldviews do not change over night but over time. However, they never change without being replaced at the same time. The line becomes less Red because a new worldview is diluting the intensity of the Red.

Eventually, things (Worship habits, behaviors, tastes, morals, family life, etc.) that made sense in a Red worldview no longer make sense in the least in a Green Worldview. To change the metaphor slightly this is due to the fact that there is a new sacred canopy backdrop against which the rhyme and reason of life makes sense.

Historically, this has often been referred to as a “generation gap.” But this is no generation gap. This is a ideological / worldview gap. The disconnect between generations is not due to age difference but instead is due to the change in the color of the sacred canopy.

We have allowed our sacred canopy to change colors. Christendom is no longer Red from the blood of Christ but it is now Pagandom as it is Green from the worship of Mother Earth. Worship habits, Sexual chastity, Moral Integrity, Definitions of modesty, now find their meaning in the context of a Green sacred canopy. The previous definitions from Red Christendom no longer make sense to the Green people and are indeed even often offensive.

The danger point in a social order though is when a strong push from Red to Green is being made. Those who are already Green are impatient with the Red people and the Red people are intent on pushing back. All this goes on amongst a small percentage of the population as the larger percentage of the population just waits to see who will win out with a willingness to go in whatever the direction the Red or Green colored cultural gate-keepers will take them.

Tullian On “Morning Joe”

1.)  Tullian is introduced in identity with his Grandfather. Clearly he is trading off his Grandfather’s name.  Maybe it is fitting because, like his Grandfather before him, he is serving up heterodoxy as orthodoxy.

2.) Tullian is on the program to hawk his book.  Tullian, you cannot serve both God and mammon.

3.) Tullian tells us that there is a problem with people trying to fix themselves so he offers his new book as a fix for people who are always trying to fix themselves. How ironic Tullian.

4.) Notice in this 6:45 second interview the name “Jesus Christ” does not fall from his lips once.

5.) Quoting Tullian, 3:15f

“It is not so much religion in the public sphere as much as religion  in the pulpit (behind the pulpit). That’s my primary concern. That as a preacher, my job when I stand up on Sunday Morning to preach is not to, first and foremost to address social ills or social problems or to try to find social solutions. My job is to diagnose people’s problems and to announce God’s solutions to their problems. So … over the course of the last 20 to 30 years — Evangelicalism specifically — their association with the religious right (Conservative politics)  has done  more damage to the branding of Christianity then just about anything else.”

a.) Notice Tullian’s Dualism. He can diagnose people’s problems and announce solutions but only as those problems and solutions are private and do not impinge upon the public sphere.

b.) Wouldn’t it be a solution to unborn people’s problems to preach, in keeping with the sixth commandment, against abortion. Wouldn’t outlawing abortion be God’s solution to unborn people’s problems Tullian?

c.) I wonder what Tullian would identify concretely as the damage that conservative politics has done to Evangelicalism? I am neither an Evangelical nor part of the religious right (since I don’t think such a thing has existed in any numbers of significance in the 20th century) but still, I would love to hear how he answers that question.

d.) Tullian is offering a solution to the problem of social issues. He is saying, by his demanded pulpit silence, that God has no solution to social issues. Tullian, by his silence, is offering that there is no “thus saith the Lord” on issues from sodomite marriage to abortion, to the social justice of Marxism, to Corporate & Statist machinations (Corporatism) to connive together against the righteous.

6.) Tullian is no friend of Biblical Christianity. The fact that he seized this pulpit upon D. James Kennedy’s passing should cause thoughtful people to ask serious questions about how such a man, who is philosophically the polar opposite of Kennedy, was able to get away with this coup.