Monthly Archives: February 2011

Christianity as Agent of Disenchantment

[please overlook the ugliness resulting from this being adapted from an abstract.  thank you.]

I’d like to argue against the received tradition that disenchantment of the world undermines religion.  Instead, I argue, Christian doctrine is responsible for the lion’s share of the creation of a disenchanted worldview.  This is due to (1) Christianity’s  monotheistic repudiation of a world full of spirits, (2) Christianity’s insistence on interiority, and (3) Christianity’s agnosticism regarding the interpretation of divine action in the contemporary world.

(1) While acknowledging a spiritual world, the epistles of James and Paul both militate against an understanding of any power active in the world other than God’s Spirit.  [What of Plutarch’s roughly contemporary De defectu oraculorum?]  Indeed, James insists that, with regard to temptation, one should not look to the world of spirits, but within oneself, suggesting (2) the Christian impulse to interiority, manifested and legitimated theologically by Augustine.  In both his experiences, recorded in his Confessions, as well as his doctrine of original sin, Augustine finds evil within the human heart.  What external calamity does occur cannot be definitively attributed to God or mischievous spirits, but in the modern age (defined by Augustine as that occurring between Christ’s Incarnation and his second coming at the end of the world), we are forced into (3) an agnosticism regarding the working of the world.  Augustine (according to the R.A. Markus’ interpretation) reserved insight into God’s actions to prophets directly inspired by God.  In the present age, after the closing of the scriptural canon, humanity is left without such  inspired interpretation, and all time becomes, like that of Benjamin’s modernity, homogeneous.

Thus Christianity, in its biblical and early doctrinal expressions, establishes an understanding of the world much like that usually assumed to be specifically modern.  It resists looking for spirits in the world; it finds meaning within the self and urges caution about finding divinity in the world now understood as ‘natural’ (cf. Chesterton’s interpretation of St. Francis).  We must thus acknowledge the constructedness of the category of ‘religion’; when it is assumed that religion is a vector of supernatural powers irrupting in the everyday, ‘religion’ is a construct built without attention to its object, in this case Christianity.

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Will I Be Ready to See God When I Die?

(This is the second of two [very brief and sketchy] posts on alternatives to the Baptist view of life after death.  Please forgive me and let me know if it’s too snarky; and of course please let me know what you think about the issue.)

Regarding Purgatory

What sin of yours has Christ not forgiven?
What part of you has Christ not redeemed?

What God says, is.  If Christ calls me brother, am I not his brother?

Yes, I cannot stand before our holy God.  But in the Spirit, I do stand before God.  I am redeemed.  I don’t know why, in faith, I would think that the forgiveness Christ extended to the thief on the cross He has not extended to me.

Against annihilationism

(This is the first of two posts on [what I believe to be false] alternatives to the Baptist view of life after death.  Please forgive me and let me know if it’s too snarky; and of course please let me know what you think about the issue.)

When I saw the wickedness of man I became an annihilationist, because, unlike man, God is not a torturer.  I once confronted a murderer.
‘You killed them!’ I railed.
‘Why are you concerned for them?  They are gone.’
‘I remember them.’
‘If you think of them, be glad they experience evil no more,’ he replied.
***
And I witnessed the extinction of the unredeemed.
‘You killed them!’ I railed.
‘Why are you concerned for them?  They are gone.’
‘I remember them.’
‘If you think of them, be glad they experience evil no more,’ God replied.
I did not expect annihilation to affect me.

A – ‘I could not live in heaven with the knowledge that there are those who live in hell.’
B – ‘You will think of those in hell?  Will you not reason their existence away as you do now?’