Self-Idolatry and The Church of Me

SelfIdolatryby Tim Jones4/12/16
Atheists and Secular Liberals Raging against a Materialistic World of Their Own Creation  •   “The rebellion of the new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves.”  — C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (Lewis uses the word “Tao” to denote objective moral and spiritual truth)

Prior to the Enlightenment, the Reformation created a tectonic shift in a nearly universal spiritual worldview that gave rise to one of secularist “enlightened” thinking. (This topic goes into outstanding detail in The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.) What was born out of the Enlightenment is known as “immanence” where divinity had been an external proposition but evolved into an internal and material one. Immanence is defined as “referring to those philosophical and metaphysical theories of divine presence in which the divine encompasses or is manifested in the material world.”

The following are Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment philosophers along with very brief and simplistic encapsulations of their philosophies: Descartes (defined the modern self “I think therefore I am”), Kant (nothing can be known outside of sensory experience or reason), Hume (philosophy and psychology replace spirituality), Rousseau (the self has been corrupted by society), Heidegger (truth can only be found in scientism), Marx (man is defined by economic interest), and Nietzsche (declared that God is dead). These men are just some of the many “fathers” of modern atheism who contributed directly or indirectly to the conversion of a mystical and transcendental Christian worldview into a materialistic and atheistic one. The end result:  the self has been placed at the center of the universe where God once lived that ended up contaminating and debasing authentic spirituality.

In their secularist philosophies, they brought God down to earth and essentially destroyed him, intentionally or not. Nietzsche was very intentional about it when he declared God is dead.  The result was the arrival of a new age spirituality that revolves around nothing except the self where the Self has become the new god.

No matter how much one thinks he or she may be spiritual, without an external and transcendental God who created the universe and mankind, this new worldview revolves entirely around the self. Even if it’s an altruistic one, it is based on materialism because it is guided by internal human authority. Taken to its logical conclusion, if everyone has their own internal spiritual gyroscope where each one is just as equally valid as any other, then those worldviews are also all as equally meaninglessness as they are in their meaningfulness.

From Idols for Destruction, The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture:

“Western society, in turning away from Christian faith, has turned to other things. This process is commonly called secularization, but that conveys only the negative aspect. The word connotes the turning away from the worship of God while ignoring the fact that something is being turned to in its place. Even atheisms are usually idolatrous, as Reinhold Niebuhr said, because they elevate some ‘principle of coherence’ to the central meaning of life and this is what then provide the focus of significance for that life.”

The definition of transcendental is “of or relating to a spiritual or nonphysical realm”.  So an atheist, even if that person considers oneself “spiritual,” is living and believing in something that is in the material realm. So atheism is really nihilism by a different name, that is, the belief in nothing. However belief in nothing is belief in something – as paradoxical as that sounds. Thus you have all the new age spiritual nonsense that fills the vacuum of spiritual nothingness. Personal feelings, opinion and emotions become individualized moral standards. The self becomes the measure of all things moral where universal and shared values are shoved to the side.

It all can be walked back to replacing God with the self as the self becomes the center of the universe: narcissism in the extreme along with its sibling, solipsism (defined as “the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist”). That is what modernism and post-modernism has given us and why solipsism and narcissism has led to hyper-materialism, greed and egotism of today.

Whenever I hear an atheist lamenting today’s sad state of affairs and criticize organized religion, materialism, corporatism, etc., they need to take a long look at themselves in the mirror because they are not above the fray and are just as much a part of the problem as anyone else, maybe more so. They share the same philosophical roots of the family tree of “reason” that has produced all of the evil “isms” they rage against. Not just racism, sexism, but fascism, socialism and Marxism (all distinctions without a difference) which are all branches from one source – the great tree of reason – as produced by the philosophers of the Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment periods.

Out of their spiritual relativism, atheists have made religion, or spirituality, out of nearly everything that exists in the material realm, whether it’s environmentalism, feminism, gay rights, the self-help movement or big government (aka liberalism). Even physical fitness, yoga, organic food, hyper-nutrition and even extreme sports have become vanity obsessions based on the glorification of the material self. New Ageism is nothing but a smorgasbord of choosing one’s own brand of down-to-earth teleology and soteriology, i.e., creating customized purpose and salvation. This will always lead to failure because it’s the equivalent of trying to lift oneself into the air by one’s bootstraps. It is also the basis for moral relativism that puts Hitler on the same moral plane as Mother Teresa when morality becomes nothing other than opinion, choice or preference.

The following is also from Idols for Destruction:

“The current craze for the pop psychologies that encourage narcissism is typically humanist in its emphasis on sentimental introspection. Therapy, the attempt to manipulate a sense of well-being rather than seeking it in convictions about truth and reality, is a related aspect of the same phenomenon.”

Many well-meaning and altruistic atheists exist but that doesn’t exempt them from their materialistic and pseudo-spiritual worldview no matter how much they might think otherwise. And as much as they lament the ugly side-effects of today’s capitalistic consumer-driven society (e.g., greed, pollution, income inequality, etc.), they live with a self-absorbed and artificial spirituality whose roots of their belief system, be it atheism or New Ageism, are directly descended from and therefore products of the same strains of thought that gave rise to the materialistic modern society in the first place that many now decry. They are rebelling and ranting against a world owed in large part of their own making. • (1116 views)

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37 Responses to Self-Idolatry and The Church of Me

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Both of those books you mention, Tim, sound very interesting. I’ll comment further, but just wanted to note this. And both are available for the Kindle. I’ve already downloaded samples.

    One reviewer sums up “The Unintended Reformation”:

    In the book, Gregory argues two main points: 1) That the nearly absolute secularization of Western culture is an unintended result of the Protestant Reformation, and 2) that the current power-brokers of liberal democracy and the academy like it that way and wish to keep religion marginalized in what they desire to be a “post-religious” world. Central to his thesis–and it appears that some reviewers of the book have not read enough of it to discern this–is that the medieval ideal of caritas as the core of a healthy society was during the Reformation (and after) usurped by the notion of “faith” which eventually resulted in religious belief being rendered inert and forced into an allegedly “private” sphere and disallowed in public (and certainly in the academy) almost as a mark of shame. In short, the medieval ethos of caritas and the presence of what Emmanuel Levinas described as “metaphysical desire” (the insatiable desire for goodness, truth, and beauty) has been replaced by its antithesis: consumerism and the insatiable desire for more and more “stuff.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The problem with trying to create a post-religious world can be seen in the Islamization of the West. Most people need to believe in something, and there will always be something available for them to believe in.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Timothy, I intend to read at least the free sample of one or both of the books that Tim listed. I think Mr. Kung would agree that the factors that go into shaping a culture are complex and somewhat random. I don’t believe in a strict cause-and-effect view of history. I think it has a tendency to wander where it will. Small influences can make large changes….the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, if you will. But on the other hand, there are always a million butterflies flapping at any one time which makes it nearly impossible to isolate key influences.

        I think a huge influence on the marginalization of religion (not belief itself, perhaps, but in societal influence) has a lot to do with the preeminence of science. “Science,” of course, has become a word turned into an incantation. But there’s little doubt that the de-mystification of the natural world has greatly undercut the influence of religious faith in society and thus caused it to become more of a private concern. That is, it has lost much explanatory power.

        And look at what happens when religion does try to influence society. Most of this “influence” is little more than Cultural Marxism filtered, faked, and finagled through the soft-focus “nice” lens of the social justice conglomerate of PC words such as “diversity,” “non-judgmentalism,” “inclusion,” and “equality.” And perhaps then it’s no wonder that outward “faith” has been politicized (to match the “scientific” secular culture at large) and thus wrung of inconvenient things such as the promotion of good personal morals. Outward “faith” tends to be rooted in Cultural Marxism. Inward faith may still be pure and god-based, even while these same people switch to another mode outwardly. Very few are consistent with the inner and the outer, although I suppose there is consistency amongst the Kumbaya Christians whose “faith” is likely the same feel-good stuff both inside their church and outside of it….to the detriment of both, of course.

      • David Ray says:

        I’m gonna take a walk down Timory Lane:
        Any chance in hell Europe can escape it’s impending permanence of Islamization? (and us also?)

        The author of “Londonistan” seems to be losing faith.
        I have hope, but hopefully not that of a fools choice. However with B. Hussein’s screw-us-all endeavor of yet 170,000 more & a sweet deal with nuclear Iran in play . . . You’ll forgive my doubt.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Well, they could slow it down by stopping the in-flow of invaders masquerading as refugees. But as long as the Muslims breed like flies and the natives hardly breed at all, it’s probably too late to save a large part of Europe (though much of eastern Europe, such as Poland, still has a chance because they mostly haven’t been importing Muslims).

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I think Mr. Kung would agree that the factors that go into shaping a culture are complex and somewhat random.

    I think a huge influence on the marginalization of religion (not belief itself, perhaps, but in societal influence) has a lot to do with the preeminence of science. “Science,” of course, has become a word turned into an incantation

    I completely agree with your first statement. A culture/civilization is so complex that nobody is able to plug in, much less understand, all the variables which influence it.

    Marx understood the validity of your remarks about science and religion. This is why Marxism was so powerful. Particularly in “Das Kapital”, Marx was the first Leftist to give the lunacy of the Left, a pseudo-scientific base. By doing this, he could give his musings/biases a validity to which they had no right.

    Since that time, the Left has continued to try and mask its aims and ravings in the guise of science.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I have yet to read Tim’s article or the samples of the book. So I’m out of turn here. And I apologize. But this is a subject for which I have some pre-built opinion.

      Christian religion has been flaccid in the face of scientism (one of the religions of secular culture…a first cousin to Progressivism). After all, even if one is a bible-thumper from birth, you’ve grown up in a culture driven by atheism whereby you are constantly reminded of those nasty Crusades. Constantly. It never leaves you the guilt you should have for being a Christian. The message is clear: Believe, but don’t take it too seriously, and by no means act on your faith.

      And that’s worked. Christians have been thoroughly cowed. And instead of their general goodness seeping into the culture with no hard current ever felt, this constipation of belief has often led to various demagogues and religious zealotry breaking out in a tidal wave. When medium is taken off the menu, all that is left is to run cold or hot.

      And most have chosen, or been badgered, into cold. They pretend to themselves and others that they really are “moderate” but there is a truism when the Mullahs note that there is no “moderate” Islam. They are right, of course. Islam is a murderous religion by nature.

      But there also is no “moderate” Christianity either. You either pick up your cross and live by a different set of rules than the ones of nature or you don’t. There is no “moderate” in Kumbaya Christianity where the watchword is “I’m okay, you’re okay.” That’s just feckless — running cold— the kind of “nice” that Dennis Prager notes is not a synonym for “good.” Such “niceness” is much more about self-congratulations rather than repenting sin or redemption (other than the secular redemption gained by recycling, for instance). Real Christianity is not moderate. It’s about something more than being measured by the slippery judgment of political figures.

      With the true middle-path (as opposed to “moderate”) of Christianity taken away, the path of least resistance is for private (read: feckless) faith and/or mouthing the platitudes of political correctness…maybe throwing a bible verse around here and there for window dressing. And that is what has become common.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I love the picture with this article. Is that Trump looking into the mirror? Hair color looks similar.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Tim, it would seem this is the core of what you’re saying:

    The end result:  the self has been placed at the center of the universe where God once lived that ended up contaminating and debasing authentic spirituality.

    In their secularist philosophies, they brought God down to earth and essentially destroyed him, intentionally or not. Nietzsche was very intentional about it when he declared God is dead.  The result was the arrival of a new age spirituality that revolves around nothing except the self where the Self has become the new god.

    First off, I doubt that very few people get involved in even traditional religion without a view of “What’s in it for me?” I would therefore tread carefully about the idea that the self is now suddenly at the center of how people think and live. I think it’s always been central.

    Personal feelings, opinion and emotions become individualized moral standards. The self becomes the measure of all things moral where universal and shared values are shoved to the side.

    Again, I’m going to play devil’s advocate. I would suppose a Progressive very much could make the argument that their values are universal…or should be.

    Still, I do think the core of the truth is that traditional religion was always about restraining yourself and adhering to external standards of conduct. The modern approach is indeed what you said: “Personal feelings, opinion and emotions become individualized moral standards.” And, of course, built into that is a paradox: How can anything personal ever be a standard? So this is how we end up with 56 (or more) definitions of gender as everyone tries to accommodate everyone else’s personal standard.

    And this is the heart of the narcissistic component. It’s the attitude that I’m okay, it’s the rest of the world that has to change. But the truth is that none of us is okay as-is. Kumbaya Christianity, for example, is about “celebrating diversity.” But, good god, that’s a morally and intellectually bankrupt concept from the get-go that primes people for accepting error. Would a roomful of people be more or less diverse if it included both Hitler and Mother Teresa? Wouldn’t it be less diverse if it just included Mother Teresa. But wouldn’t the latter be better?

    So we might quibble with the authority of the Bible and whether that is the actual word of God, and thus contains a special authority. But nothing but nonsense can result if you replace some kind of larger, agreed-upon, tried-and-true standard with vapid slogans that can’t bear even the slightest logical scrutiny. And, of course, they are not meant to do so, for the goals of the modern spiritualist (atheist or Christian) are therapeutic, not remedial. And that, I would say, is the prime difference.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I know what you mean about the “what’s in it for me?” aspect of religion. Even when I was young, it occurred to me that telling people to be good so that they would go to Heaven instead of Hell was trying to appeal to their self-interest. Of course, it’s very long-term, and most people find it hard to sacrifice the present for the distant (and indefinite) future. The same problem applies if one cites the benefits simply of faith in Christ.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’ll have to swear fidelity to one of Mr. Kung’s truisms, Timothy: Life is complicated.

        I can’t imagine anyone operating with a good and true heart and there not being a significant amount of self-interest. I’m somewhat of the Ayn Randian school whereby we ought to be very careful of anyone buggering the word “self-interest” lest this be the gateway drug to “shared” socialism where freedom itself (as Obama has done) is demonized as “selfish.”

        A God who created us and this world did not create sheep, as much bleating as some people do. As Brian from Monty Python said, “You are all individuals.” (And, of course, the mob shouted back in unison: “Yes, we are all individuals.”)

        One mark of Protestantism is that no man shall be ruled by another man pretending to be the voice of God. Maybe that’s a harsh way of putting it. But, in practice, we have often unwisely elevated people to that status as we (wait for it) lose our selves in something we see as greater.

        So therefore one of the healthiest, most Christian things can be to be “selfish.” If you don’t honor yourself, who will? If you don’t take your life and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, to whom will you give your freedom and your soul to so that they can do that for you? Thus I differ with “social justice” Kumbaya Christians not just because they substitute Leftism for their authentic religion but because they are undermining the true individuality of people — a true individuality that comes with all shades of colors, including suffering and the repenting of sin.

        Those who lose their minds in group causes have lost part of their soul and their humanity. A “selfishness” that makes us aware of taking care of our own business is a good thing in my book.

        But certainly many people are attracted to this religion or that because it packages their worldly concerns and ambitions and sanctifies them with the gloss of mysticism and a higher authority. That’s an entire subject unto itself. But a true Christian is burdened by his or her religion. There is a cross to be carried. It’s not about cosmic “free stuff.”

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Of course, one of the strengths of that scene from Life of Brian is that one of the crowd — as all the others chant in unison, “Yes, we are all individuals” (sounds perfectly liberal to me, though I doubt they meant it that way) — objected, “Uh, I’m not.”

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yeah, that’s a funny moment.

            What a wonderful topic, Timothy. We can prove Mr. Kung’s rule again and again as we plunge into this. Should we honor the iconoclast or the go-along-to-get-along person who has been “socialized” to fit in? Clearly a good society has room for both, and couldn’t exist vibrantly without both. We don’t make Socrates drink the Hemlock. But we do come together and make decisions as a group as to what our values should be and thus draw boundaries.

            A tricky balance, but giving over completely to the iconoclasts means that we honor the drip, drip, drip poison of deconstructionism, where we “value” the bold critique and give no defense to the tried-and-true established. That has been the means for the Left to destroy the West. On the other hand, we don’t want our butt cheeks clenched so tight that we don’t once in a while re-examine our cherished beliefs. But we should do so in the spirit of knowledge and of gaining wisdom, not the toddler’s fun of knocking over a tower of building bricks.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Note that conservatism, properly speaking, is not the rejection of all change. It calls for caution about change, which the US federalist system makes a lot easier on political matters (and these days everything is political, which is a hallmark of totalitarianism and thus a liberal goal).

  5. Allow me to muddy the already thickened waters: I’d have to agree that the Reformation has mucked things up, but I think that has happened because of theological problems within the Reformation. Luther, Calvin, et.al. did not adequately divest themselves of the heresies of Roman Catholicism. Instead, they twisted and braided theological suppositions until they had frayed the edges of the Gospel, squeezing all the power and joy out of it. Calvin’s (or more properly, Beza’s) TULIP acronym — Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints — destroyed the integrity of God and robbed the Good News of all its light.

    Why spread a gospel that says that God just willy-nilly saves some and not others and that you better work really hard to convince yourself that you are one of those He picked for the prizes? (Talk about an emphasis on self.) How can a person love a God who would allow His own son to die horribly just so He can have the fun of rescuing some — eeny meeny miny mo – and condemning others to hell? Why obey Him? The neo-Calvinist movement has turned much of the church into a cheap version of a rock concert and robbed it of the power to inspire, to strengthen, to save.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, I’m not sure how much the religions that stem from Calvinism (such as the Baptists) actually follow his vision of predestination. It still seems to me that it can all too easily lead to antinominanism (e.g., the Anabaptists of Münster). But at least Jean Cauvin replaced transubstantiation with the idea that the Eucharist was only metaphorically the body and blood of Christ.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I’d have to agree that the Reformation has mucked things up,

      I have, for some time, believed that the rot set in during the late fourteenth/early fifteenth centuries when the Italian Humanists, who I believe were looking for a way to counter the Catholic Church, became enamored of the pagan Latins, and to a lesser extent, Greeks.

      These humanists re-introduced pre-Christian philosophy and thought into, first Italy, and then France and the Low Countries. This led to the Christian Humanists such as Erasmus who questioned many of the Church’s practices and doctrines. Out of this thinking came the Reformation.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I believe the adoption of Aristotelian philosophy by the Christians was developed by Thomas Aquinas. Apparently Aristotle’s works had recently been rediscovered when Aquinas wrote. This did have the advantage of making sure Christianity was oriented toward reason (unlike Islam, where everything literally results from the will of Allah).

        And a lot of Catholic practices needed to be questioned. Johann Tetzel was no one to be proud of.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          It is true Aquinas brought Scholasticism to its apex incorporating parts of Aristotelian philosophy into Christian thought. And I could have extended the date of the re-introduction of Classical philosophy back to the latter half of the thirteenth century, but I believe it was only in around 1300 onward that it became more widespread among the intellectual types. Boccaccio and Petrarch come to mind.

          And while Aquinas used classical knowledge to support Christianity, some of the Humanists used it to subtly undermine Christianity. These are the first people I have in mind when I say that the assault on the West has been going on for centuries. It is ironic that this assault came in the guise of the re-discovery of a major part of our Western Heritage.

          No doubt Tetzel and many others in the Catholic Church deserved to be severely questioned.

          Unfortunately, what happened to the Catholic Church happens to all bureaucratic institutions, they become corrupt and their members main concern is the preservation of the bureaucracy.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Yes, we see this today in our own government. The VA goes totally corrupt — and the Demagogues take its side rather than the veterans’ side (and the GOP, as usual, fails to call them on it).

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Why spread a gospel that says that God just willy-nilly saves some and not others and that you better work really hard to convince yourself that you are one of those He picked for the prizes?

      I hold pre-destination to be the most obnoxious and capricious doctrine to come out of the Reformation.

      As I am sure you know, the question of justification by faith alone or by works was discussed for centuries before the Reformation. I believe it was Luther or Melchthon who expressed the idea which I believe would logically be correct, i.e. something along the line that works flow from faith like heat flows from fire. If you have one you needs-be, must have the other. So while man is saved by faith, if the faith is true one is so changed that one cannot help but produce works.

      Sorry if the analogy is not exact, but the idea is there.

      “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      As I see it, Deana, there are two large influences in regards to our attraction for religion. And I take careful note that you don’t consider Christianity a religion but a reality.

      One is the “Those bad guys will get theirs/I’m better than most (am amongst the select)” vibe. And who doesn’t pine for Cosmic justice for the bad guys when they escape earthly justice? And any religion worth its salt ought to have an element of this. But as a primary orientation, it turns people into bitter pills of dour gloom and judgmentalism.

      The second is what I refer to as “Kumbaya Christianity” where the point is to recreate the Beach Boys main theme: Good Vibrations. The point is to be light, lovey-dovey, non-judgmental, accepting, and just overall so damn kind that you condemn George Bush and instead go to Iraq to wash the feet of Saddam Hussein. You can sort of see where #1 wraps around and can easily enough become #2. Number Two can be “nice” with motivations that are more dour and Calvinistic.

      How did Jesus ever expect to walk this earth and make sense to us dolts? We just hear what we want to hear and do what we want to do and justify it later. Certainly in the case of judgement, non-judgmentalism is ratified in the “He who is without sin may throw the first stone” idea. On the other hand, the Bible (and New Testament) are full of “thou shalt nots” (or, conversely, “thou must do this or that”).

      How did the Creator of the universe ever expect to convey complex ideas to a human species that loves running with simple-minded cliches? So we have people running around with this strain of thought or that, keeping things simple with one ingredient. But try to bake a cake (or anything worth eating) with just one ingredient. It doesn’t work.

      So the Mr. Kung rule applies: Life is complicated. To me, Calvinism is about lording one’s “selectness” over others. “I’m saved, you’re not, so you can kiss my behind, and be sure to bow on the way out.” It’s drawing a too-hard line in the sand. And the other side of that coin we are seeing today as people fall all over themselves to be accepting of one perversion or another in the name of “niceness.”

      We want life to be simple and to make clear sense, but what if instead we are challenged to become more thoughtful, wise, and complex instead of the opposite? Here’s a thought: Maybe the point isn’t to sanctify our generally Kindergarten attitudes but to reach out, however fallibly, to something (or someone) who is more advanced to us than Einstein is to a 3rd-grader.

      Maybe the point of religion isn’t to reflect our sense of fairness (#1) or our narcissism (#2). Maybe it’s about something more. But as we see with Obama (or Trump), ideas can be twisted and sold to the masses when spiced with a pleasing deceit.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        It occurs to me reading your piece here that Calvinism would have appealed very strongly to the pharisees. I wonder if anyone ever pointed that out to them.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Timothy, I think Deana makes a strong point when she wrote “we have to be careful about the ‘true faith’ idea.” And yet, I come at this from the standpoint that religion is often man’s ego through other means. If this is real, as Deana insists, then it should be given the same kind of rational scrutiny that anything else should — or else we’re just dealing in pleasing fantasy and then it’s a case of the 56 genders where we each flatter the other’s personal belief system.

          The problem with Calvinism is not their certainty, per se. It’s what they’re so damn certain about. And there’s no way in hell (or heaven) man can know if he is saved or not, or even what the precise meaning of “saved” is. It’s guesswork that people try to drive home into something more concrete by putting a little fundamentalist elbow grease behind it.

          Oddly, the correct approach is more Teddy Rooseveltesque: Speak softly and carry a big stick. That is, believe in something, but have the humility and maturity (not to mention the humanity) to suppose that one’s belief is, at best, fallible, partial, and uncertain. One may hope but can’t prove. One may think the world is a certain way, but it’s no substitute merely to try to force or expect others to think the same way.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            When I was at Ursuline in Greece (4th and 5th grades) we all had to attend Catechism class and receive the booklets, though non-Catholics didn’t have to take part in class discussion. They listed “presumption” and “despair” (the certainty that one either would or would not go to Heaven) as major sins. Of course, Calvinism was never mentioned, so I didn’t know why these were major sins until much later.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Sounds like sound teaching from the good nuns. Hopefully the point of religious teaching isn’t to create psychosis. And getting people to obsess over the idea that they can know with 100% certainty if they are going to hell could be one way to achieve that.

  6. I like the fire/heat analogy, but we have to be careful about the “by your fruits” connection. That comes from Matthew 7:15-16 and the context is negative — how to tell false prophets. We also have to be careful about the “true faith” idea. That has wrought untold damage as well. Christ says in Matt. 17:20 that faith “the size of a mustard seed” is adequate. We can’t be useful Christian if we are constantly doubting our own faith.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      the context is negative — how to tell false prophets

      Yet if there are false fruits, there must be, by definition, true fruits. So I take the overall message of this verse that one must observe individuals, especially those who claim to be Christians, in order to see who they truly are, as Christians will bear good fruit.

      We also have to be careful about the “true faith” idea. That has wrought untold damage as well. Christ says in Matt. 17:20 that faith “the size of a mustard seed” is adequate. We can’t be useful Christian if we are constantly doubting our own faith.

      I see your point, but I guess faith of whatever size, would bring about a significant change in a person’s life. Probably much larger, relatively speaking, than the amount of faith present. I am not sure I am saying this correctly, but I hope you get my drift.

      I suppose doubt might creep into the mind of a person with a mustard seed’s size of faith. But I also believe, the combination of doubt and faith may lead to a person to ask for help from God in showing one the right way. In the end, I guess the only real road to salvation is not simply one of faith, but one of completely surrendering one’s will to God, which is adoration. Or is faith surrendering to God? I am not sure the two are the same.

      We can only conjecture on these things, as it is not in our ability to know all. That is one reason I love 1st Corinthians 13.

      12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

      13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; the greatest of these is charity.”

      Maybe charity is the most important because adoration of God is the final goal.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        In the end, I guess the only real road to salvation is not simply one of faith, but one of completely surrendering one’s will to God, which is adoration. Or is faith surrendering to God? I am not sure the two are the same.

        My road, Mr. Kung, it to be persnickety, if not actually blasphemous. 😀

        I think what you said there was pretty good. Jean-Pierre De Caussade wrote a tome called Abandonment to Divine Providence. Read this and you can really get inside the head of those who practice the surrendering.

        It’s a fascinating idea. If there is a God, you’d expect there to be a line of communication. But how does one tell God’s will from the background noise of the subconscious and all the other motivations? This book doesn’t deal with that. It just takes as a given that through humble prayer and with the help of a devoted spiritual director you will align yourself with that will. (The priest is the spiritual director for a cloister of nuns, and the book is a compendium of letters to these nuns.)

        These are people who really believe. And if they sometimes doubt, they still do their best to do what they need to do to overcome that…via merely keeping busy, if need be.

        I’ve read this. I absorbed it. And that’s why I tend to be persnickety because what passes for faith in the world of good-time-rock-n-roll Kumbaya Christianity isn’t even in the same universe. So I don’t take that kind of faith seriously because I don’t think it’s even pointed in the general direction of the real thing.

        • What happens I think (allowing for “seeing through a glass darkly” :-)) is that at one point in time that “metanoeo” — that change of mind that’s often translated “repentance” happens and the result is a permanent connection to God. The Greek verb tense (perfect paraphrasitc) in such passages as John 3;15, 16, 18 tells us that the result of that seed of faith is irreversible. If we seek Him, we’ll find. And that does bring about significant change, but said change may not be discernable to others, and will be brought about more by gradual assimilation of biblical thinking than by any sudden stroke of divine lightning.

          Have to agree entirely about the Rock n Roll Kumbaya stuff. It’s mostly a sellout, fill-the-pews effort, but if no truth is taught once the seats fill, what’s the point?

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I would have interpreted Jesus’ remark

            that faith “the size of a mustard seed” is adequate.

            the way you appear to i.e.

            the result of that seed of faith is irreversible

            except the seed of faith may die.

            Of course, that can lead to the discussion whether or not a Christian can fall away and be lost. Some will say yes, others will maintain that the Christian was never truly a Christian in the first place.

            I tend to favor the first choice.

            • The seed of faith may die, from our point of view, but not from God’s. That’s my point. The result of that faith, i.e. everlasting life, doesn’t fade even if we cease to believe it. If it did, it never was everlasting.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Mr. Kung, I have faith the side of a mustard seed and that’s not necessarily a happy place to be. But I suppose if the seed is good, if small, then that is better than a big outward, blustery show of faith…well…nothing new under the sun in that regard:

              “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                It all comes down to why something is done. Ostentatious do-gooding like that is popular with the goodthinkful well-doers –not because it actually does good, but because it impresses people.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            And that does bring about significant change, but said change may not be discernable to others, and will be brought about more by gradual assimilation of biblical thinking than by any sudden stroke of divine lightning.

            I think that’s very well said, Deana.

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