Interview: Drieu Godefridi

This is a new series we are launching – interviews with important thinkers of our time.

For our inaugural interview, we are very honored to have Dr. Drieu Godefridi. He obtained his PhD from the Sorbonne in philosophy, and he has written several important books on gender, the IPCC and environmentalism.

Dr. Godefridi’s books may be found here.

The Postil (TP): Welcome, Dr. Godefridi. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. To start, do you think the West is in crisis, where everything must be questioned so that it can be replaced by something “better?” Or, is it simply bad political management, in that we are in a period of kakistocracy?

Drieu Godefridi (DG): There is an element of risk in answering such a broad question. The West is more powerful than ever, its military might is peerless and its cultural impact is probably greater than ever. At the same time, the threats to this hegemony are evident — mass migration, economic stagnation in Europe, self-destructive totalitarian environmentalism — and a Left getting more and more extreme by the day.

TP: Why does the West still want to be “moral”, while also being aggressively atheistic (where science alone is the arbiter of truth)? Can this contradiction be easily resolved, or will it only produce chaos?

DG: I don’t see either the United States or Eastern Europe as being particularly “atheistic”. What you say is true only of Western Europe, and of the American Left. This is not “the West” as a whole; the Kulturkampf is still very much ongoing. As for the “morality” of Western Europe, for instance regarding foreign affairs, it leads nowhere, as Henry Kissinger predicted in his formidable book Diplomacy. After Brexit, I see the European Union — beyond its function as a common market — as condemned; it is now only a question of time. When Germany is unable to pour huge amounts of money into Eastern Europe anymore — which will soon come about, given the utter folly of the Energiewende, Germany’s energy transition to poverty — Eastern Europe will exit, too.

TP: The native populations of the West have constructed all kinds of myths about their own “evil” (white supremacy, colonialism, misandry, environmentalism, and now genderism). These are very powerful myths which now determine global intellectual and socio-political discourse. Where does this self-loathing come from? And how can we diminish its harmful impact?

DG: Myth and ideology are consubstantial with mankind. That aside, I see no commonality to those ideologies, for instance, you may think that colonialism was economically deleterious — as F.A. Hayek did — yet be radically opposed to the other ideologies you mention. Nevertheless, one thing they do have in common it is that they are false. To say that the West is “white supremacist” is grotesque and does not deserve serious consideration, no civilisation has taken in so many people from every race, continent, creed, religion and origin as has the West over the last 50 years. And genderism, basically the idea that sex is a cultural creation, not a biological reality, is a false theory with absurd consequences, particularly detrimental for women. As for environmentalism that is a very powerful and comprehensive ideology that is the subject of my latest essay.

TP: You have long defended Liberalism, while also refuting Libertarianism (or perhaps, “Rothbardianism”). Why is Libertarianism a failed project? And why is Liberalism still important?

DG: Capitalism is fundamental to the West and is the embodiment of freedom in economic affairs. I’m very much in favour of capitalism. Libertarianism as an apriorist theory that pretends to “derive” all rules of law and of morals from a single axiom —non-aggression— which seems to me a very simplistic contrivance. An anarchist political theory is a contradiction in terms.

TP: Is Croce correct in observing that liberalism has been replaced by “active libertarianism?” And is Croce also correct in calling “active libertarianism” a form of fascism?

DG: I do my utmost to avoid those words. The word ‘Liberalism’ had been employed, particularly in English, in so many different and irreconcilable ways, that even Joseph Schumpeter and Hayek were sceptical of its usefulness back in their day. It’s even more true nowadays. People in favour of infanticide — postnatal abortion — and euthanasia without consent or those viewing sex as a cultural creation are not libertarian, liberal or whatever: they are merely rationally and morally wrong. 

TP: You have also written about George Soros and his efforts to construct his own “empire.” This “Sorosian” imperialism has its roots in the ideas of Karl Popper (which is Marxism without Marx, in that the desire to change the world remains valid). But Soros is also a highly successful capitalist. How can “Sorosian” imperialism (making the West into an “Open Society”) be properly critiqued, while retaining the importance of capitalism?

DG: The political philosophy of Mr. Soros is international socialism with a heavy accent on “crony-capitalism” — he is himself the ultimate insider, and has been criminally convicted as such. Mr. Soros, who has invested $35 billion not in true philanthropy but in the promotion of his political ideas, must be seen as a sui generis phenomenon. You are right regarding its origins, for his foundation was named after the “open society” of Karl Popper. But in fact Soros is no Popperian at all. Popper was in favour of democracy; Soros is funding hundreds of extreme NGOs; some of which use violence and intend to abolish democracy in the name of Gaïa, Allah or whatever. Soros is no Popperian, he’s an international socialist who fancies himself as some kind of god. Popper defined himself as a liberal in the classic sense of the word, close to the philosophy of Hayek and the Founding Fathers of the Unites States.

TP: You have just written a very important book on the dangers of environmentalism, which we had the pleasure of reviewing. Why did you write this book?

DG: My goal is to show that the end result of the green ideology will be misery and the complete abolition of freedom. If human CO2 is the problem and we have to reduce it to zero —as stated by the IPCC, the EU, the UN and the American Left— there is no room left for freedom. Freedom = CO2. Whichever perspective we choose, be that theoretical or practical, contemporary environmentalism brings us back to this truism, this obvious truth: if human CO2 is the problem, then Man’s every activity, endeavor, action, and ambition is the problem.

TP: Why has environmentalism become the West’s new religion?

DG: People in Western Europe do not believe in God anymore so were ready for a new source of “meaning”. As Ayn Rand stated, real atheism is not for the weak. Most people try to find a substitute for God. Gaïa — the “All-Living” — is exactly that to the environmentalists.

TP: Freedom is disappearing very rapidly. Theoretically, freedom is a Western virtue. But in current Western socio-political policy, freedom has become a crime. Why this contradiction, and how can we overcome the emerging oppression?

DG: By winning the Kulturkampf. Cultural submission to the Left — the European way — is no solution. We must fight for freedom and defeat these extremists within the framework of the constitutional order — which is the American way, thanks to the ultimate fighter Donald J. Trump, probably the most important political figure of our time. You do not collaborate with the enemies of freedom: you fight them, you defeat them. There is no middle ground. We will not be subordinate to “Gaïa” — which is a concept devoid of meaning — nor material “equality” — which is a natural impossibility — we are the resistance; we are freedom fighters.

TP: Lastly, what do you think is the most important issue of our time? And why?

DG: Freedom is the most important issue of all time in the West because, from ancient Greece to today, it is the value on which our civilisation rests and is, at the same time, the driving force of our society. If you abolish freedom, you abolish the West as a distinct concept.

TP: Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to share your valuable ideas with our readers.

DG: And I’d like to thank you for the recent appreciative review of my humble essay on the totalitarian essence of environmentalism.

The image shows, “Green Graveyard,” by the Brazilian artist, Benki Solal.

The Crisis In Modernity

The ideas that constitute “modernity” center around life as management. Modernity assumes that life can be managed, and that human beings are well-suited for the job. Its greatest successes have come in the careful application of technology towards various problems with a resulting rise in wealth. The well-being that comes with that wealth is limited to the things that money can buy. Non-tangibles remain as elusive as ever.

Modernity prefers problems that can be solved. As such, the short history of the modern world is the story of a civilization that staggers from one crisis to another. It derives its sense of self-worth and meaning from the problems it solves. It is existentially desperate for such problems.

No one historical event or idea created the modern world. It is an “accidental” philosophy, made up of disparate elements assembled in the wake of the collapse of the Medieval world (generally called the “Reformation”). The times that gave rise to modernity were revolutionary and radical (or were perceived to be). It’s heady stuff to be reforming the world. It’s also exhausting.

I have often thought that people generally have narrow interests. We want to work, to play, to love our family, to live in peace with some modest level of comfort. Of course, a consumer economy cannot operate in a world of satisfaction. Modern consumption with an ever-expanding economy requires that our dissatisfaction remain somewhat steady.

The same is true of the political world. For people to vote, they must be motivated (like shopping). Problems need to be advertised so that people will vote for their solutions. As such, our society has moved from crisis to crisis, slogan to slogan, with a faithfulness that can only be described as religious in nature.

Though America invented the notion of the “separation of Church and State,” nothing is more political than American religion, nor is anything more religious than American politics. Modernity is a religious project. (Christianity in its modernized forms is also driven by crisis and slogan. As such, it often resembles the politics of the world it inhabits).

Religion, per se, needs no gods or temples. It requires purpose and direction and a narrative for the direction of life. Human beings are not constructed in a manner in which we live devoid of religion. The term itself is instructive. “Religio” is a Latin word that refers to “binding” (“ligaments” has the same root). “Religion” is “that which binds us,” or “holds us together.”

Modernity, as a set of ideas, has been the dominant religion of Western culture for well over 200 years. What Christianity that continues to exist within it generally exists as a Christianized version of modernity. Modernity is the set of ideas, therefore, that answers the question, “What would Jesus do if He was going to fix the world?”

Ecumenism tends to flourish in such a setting because the “religious” differences between denominations are insignificant. What matters is the State and the culture as State. (The State is that arm of society in charge of “doing.” If Modernity as religion is about managing the world, then the State will always be its primary expression).

Modernity has been marked by a series of quasi-religious projects. The “New World” itself largely began as a religious project. The problem was not escaping persecution (an American myth). Rather, it was the dream of building a new world according to the radical ideas of English Puritanism (at least in New England).

The “rights of man” exploded as a religious campaign in France, sweeping away the old order as well as not a few heads. Again, it is a mistake to think of such fervor as “political” in nature. Politics is about governing – revolutions are always religious in nature – people “believe” in them.

America’s Westward drive can only be understood as a religious campaign. Notions such as “manifest destiny” married the American project to the book of Judges and the conquering of the land of Israel. Bob Dylan observed, “You don’t count the dead when God’s on your side.”

The single greatest act of idiocy of the modern project was the “War to End All Wars” (World War I). The mass carnage of an entire generation brought nothing of significance as a result. Again, mere governance is incapable of such madness. Only the blindness of a false belief can create such nightmares.

Following the Second World War (which was utterly conceived in religious terms) the struggle with Communism became the great religious impulse of the post-war period.3 Towards its end, Reagan declared the Soviet Union to be the “Evil Empire,” capturing the religious mood of an era.

Billy Graham’s preaching in the 50’s was as much about anti-Communism as it was about sin and redemption. Presidents loved him. It is worth noting that in its 220 years of history, the United States has only known 17 years of peace. To a large extent, the modern state exists as war (a religious war).

The collapse of the Soviet Union created something of an existential/religious crisis in the West. Historian, Francis Fukuyama, declared it to be the “end of history.” Without the religion of anti-communism, capitalism itself felt empty. Did we spend all of that treasure and energy resisting Communism just so we could have Walmarts?

Indeed, the spiritual emptiness of the West was apparent to almost everyone (except the West). Solzhenitsyn shocked American pundits when he described the vacuity of its spiritual life in his Harvard Address (1978).
I live in Oak Ridge, TN. I moved here shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This city (the home of the Manhattan Project that built the first atom bomb) went into a bit of a tailspin in the 90s as the Cold War came to an end. It was a microcosm of the whole military-industrial complex (in which is located in some dark corner, the Vatican of modernity’s religion).

The decades since have been marked by a fevered search for a religious substitute. This has partly been found through the propaganda-driven recreation of the Cold War by the demonization of post-Soviet Russia. Both political parties today channel a hatred and fear of Russia that eclipses anything ever expressed about the Soviet Union.

The single most successful current religious movement surrounds the issues of climate change. I am not suggesting that the climate is not changing nor that human activity is not a contributor. Rather, I am suggesting that it has gained a religious basis that serves the larger purposes of modernity and its religious needs. If fingers were snapped and tomorrow the climate suddenly stabilized and returned to 1960 standards, the emotional loss for many would rival the death of God.

When the pronouncements of religious leaders agree with the headlines of the New York Times, we do well to ask which religion is being espoused. Regardless of actions taken and not taken, we will not “save the planet” nor lose it. However, the concept of saving the planet serves well the unifying cohesion of modernity’s religious needs. (Communism itself was a religious project. Its wholesale destruction of the Orthodox Church was an effort to eliminate a threat to its own religious claims).

The religious character of the current “crisis” is not to be found in a concern for the environment. Rather it is in the concern for a crisis. How desperate things are has little or nothing to do with the matters at hand and everything to do with modernity’s desperate need for purpose and meaning. The very people who wring their hands about future suffering justify present suffering (such as the wholesale slaughter of the unborn) in that its presence helps pay for the uninterrupted lifestyle of consumer capitalism.

The concerns of modernity’s religious demands often contain an element of truth. That same truth is ultimately swallowed up by the unattended destruction that provides for its way of life. Fulfilling those present demands is no more a solution to the problems of the world than any of its previous wars, genocides, and head-chopping revolutions. Filled with good intentions, they are the demands of a religion of insanity.

Christian theology has a concern for all things: “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” As such, it is possible to construct a “theological” account that supports the various projects of modernity. However, the Church does not exist to serve the demands of a false narrative. Coming to understand who we are and why we are is essential to Orthodox existence. Its endangerment may be the only true crisis of our time.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The image shows, “The Song of Live,” by Giorgio de Chirico, painted in 1914.

Rebellion And Salvation

May I wish readers a happy and peaceful New Year. A New Year filled with the assurance of Almighty God, hope in Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As we embark into a new Year New Year, we all need, a message of hope and assurance. What about a message of catastrophe? We have to understand the message of catastrophe first, before we understand the message of hope and assurance.

Let’s start with the facts. All parts of creation are damaged through the consequences of Sin; no one can argue with this fact. Everything has been affected, from a bumble bee, to polar bears and the Inuit, to rain forests and swallows. The once harmonious relationship between God and his creation has fragmented. The once original complimentary relationship between man and woman is darkened into rivalry and accusation.

The once intimate relationship between God and humans is distorted into evasion and rebellion. Instead all around us is, pain, travail, sweat, hate and death. Nothing is exempt from the catastrophe. Nothing is innocent in the catastrophe. Heaven and earth are implicated. Bacteria pollutes blood streams sickening both sinner and saint. Hailstones plummet out of the skies flattening the fields ready for harvest.

Liquid fire rips through the earth’s crust, engulfing, homes, animals, and birds. Rebel angels, disbarred from worshiping in the courts of heaven, infiltrate invisible world realms, twisting and deceiving the world’s nations. Gold and oil are more valuable than human life.  And human beings created in the image of God discover within themselves, often to their horror; they have heart’s that are desperately wicked and deceitful.

This is just a glimpse, a gloss of what goes on day by day. Month by month year by year. The catastrophe is beyond calculation; it is beyond man. Amazingly there is much beauty among the wreckage, such deep goodness, so much moral zest, blessing, active intelligence, good works; generosity of spirit that it is possible to live for long stretches, honestly unaware of the extent of the disaster. Just quietly getting on with life. Then suddenly it is inescapably upon us, around us, engulfing us, and we are in it. We feel utterly lost, we don’t know where we are, we don’t know who we are.

The catastrophe was caused Christians believe, by an act of disobedience and rebellion, going back to the beginning of time. An act designed to displace God with self. That is what most Christians believe. It is not a popular belief.

 The popular belief is that however bad things seem to be, there is no catastrophe. To face the fact of catastrophe would involve, at some point or other, dealing with God. Anything seems preferable to that. So, the devil doctors the report, and the world edits the evidence. Fake news surrounds us. People reduce their understanding of catastrophe to a level that is manageable without getting into the picture in any substantial way. The same act that caused the catastrophe, perpetuates it.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter. If there is no accurate understanding of the catastrophe that we are each part of, there can be no adequate understanding of Salvation; for salvation is about God’s action that deals with the human catastrophe.

Salvation is about God’s determination to rescue his creation; it is his activity in recovering the world. What is salvation about? Essentially Salvation deals with a person’s soul; a family, even a community. It is widespread as it touches sin and sickness. Even the most unlikely people experience salvation across the world. This author being one of them.

Is there an alternative to God’s salvation? Well, it’s salvation by any other means. As we go into another New Year many are being optimistic after the New Year celebrations. It’s nice to be optimistic. But being optimistic is being hopeful without actually relying on God.

There are two types of optimist. Maybe you can identify with one of them.

One is a moral optimist, who thinks that well intentioned gestures of good will, will eventually overcome the mountains of injustice, racism, wickedness and corruption. Applied often enough good will put the world gradually to right.

The other optimist is; the Technological optimist, who thinks that by applying scientific intelligence to the problems of poverty, pollution, climate change, social reform the world will also be put to right.

Both types of optimism are very helpful and beneficial; but neither form of optimism Worships God. Neither sees God as central to the problem. Some tiny space maybe given to God from time to time, but its limited. Now It may seem a bit ungracious about all this intelligence and good will at work. These people after all, are at least doing something to help alleviate the problems. But the bible has a different take on it and this is why the world view will always clash with what the bible says. The bible discerns that a spiritual evil motivates these many good actions.

It is the evil of ignorance or trying to outwit or deny God. Their efforts to live well, to help others, and improve the world are fuelled by a determination, conscious or unconscious, to keep God out of who they are and what they are doing. If people can rationalise and interpret this catastrophe around us as something much less than what it really is; they can deny their need of God for salvation; either for themselves or others around them.

This is what the devil going into 2020 wants you to believe; things aren’t as bad as what they seem. The state of your soul is fine, you’re a good person. It was British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who said back in 1957; ‘most of our people have never had it so good.’ Even many of our television sets bear the logo of the manufacturer LG; Life’s Good.

This optimism is so pervasive. It advertises itself so attractively, and chalks up so many awards, honours and achievements, that it is difficult not to be impressed, and then actually go along with it. The hysteria concerning climate change is a classic example.

It is much easier to believe this falsehood, because then we don’t have to deal with God. Dealing with God, and submitting to him causes many people problems. Because when we deal with God, we soon realise very quickly that we might have to re order our lives by changing our mind, our attitude, changing the way we do things, and turning away from the things God hates.

John one of Jesus’ disciples and the author of the book of Revelation tells us that Salvation is made up of two things. It is made up of A Meal and a War. They are not two things I would have picked. But this is what Jesus revealed to John to record for us. The meal and the war represent two opposites. When you think about it, they are very good examples. War is man’s doing. We are also at war with God internally in our soul. Must people cannot see this. We prefer to do things our way rather than God’s way. Therefore, we create an impasse between ourselves and God. Salvation is God’s doing not ours; brought about through a Meal.

Salvation always begins with a Personal Invitation which leads to a meal.

‘Happy is everyone invited to the Lamb’s marriage supper.’ verse 9. This is the primary way Christian’s are to remember, receive and share in the meaning of our Salvation. Christ is our example; crucified for us, his blood shed for the remission of our sins.

In the sacrament of The Lord’s Supper, we take the elements of bread and wine in our hands. As we do so we maintain continuity with the killed and risen Jesus who is our salvation. This is what we do in response to an invitation concerning our Salvation mean. Salvation for anyone always starts with an Invitation. Jesus invites you to accept him as your Lord and Saviour. He doesn’t make you, because he respects you too much; he invites you to receive him. In some parts of the world people are born as Muslims, they are born as Hindu’s. They automatically enter that faith.

Christianity is different. While a person may be known as a Christian; they are not known as a Christian in the eyes of God until they accept his invitation of Salvation. Which means, to honour God more than anyone else, and to submit to his authority, not your own. That’s what accepting the invitation means. To reject the invite means to keep on going the way you are going along the broad road of life. We nearly all eat three meals a day as routine. But when we want to celebrate a great occasion, a wedding, birthday or anniversary we use a meal as means of expressing that joy to mark the occasion.

Salvation should be no different. On the one hand is Christ on the cross and risen from the tomb, and on the other hand, it is eating bread and drinking wine. The two cannot be separated.

At the Lord’s Supper eating together is an act of trust and love among friends and strangers. We do not, if we can help it eat alone. We come together with others, with family and friends. We show basic courtesies at the table. It is the place where we learn consideration and forgiveness. Grace and humility. Every invitation to the Lord’s Supper acts as a defence against reducing salvation as something that takes place in the strict privacy of the soul. The meal makes it impossible to keep salvation as a private preserve between God and us in the inner depths of one’s soul. The Lord’s Supper is a basic meal for basic people. It’s a level playing field for all present. It is an accepted invitation to equality with one another before God.

This vision of John gives us hope and assurance over catastrophe.  John comes to the end of the Revelation Christ has given him Chapter 19 verse 11. ‘I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called faithful and true. With justice he judges and makes war.’ Here we see Christ on a white horse splendid and victorious, leading Christian’s in a triumphant victory over the dragon Satan and his two beasts.

Salvation is being won here. The two beasts responsible for so much confusion, delusion and suffering are disposed of.

A thousand years later in Chapter 20, the dragon, Satan, responsible for the catastrophe since Eden and the martyrdom of Christian’s, is thrown into hell with them. Why all three are not thrown into the lake of burning sulphur at the same time I do not know. God has his reasons. The last action belongs to God, in that every form and source of evil is banished and destroyed from history for ever.  

Our struggle on this planet is not against flesh and blood, in other words people; our struggle is against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil which orchestrate the wickedness on earth. Do not be deceived into thinking that we live in a benign neutral world. Do not believe the lies of the world that with economic growth, high employment, better health care, it will bring lasting peace and prosperity. There is an evil at work around us intent to deceive and destroy us.

What Salvation does is that it attacks our enemy. When Jesus taught us to pray; ‘deliver us from evil’; he was arming us for a life of Salvation. Not a life of ease. When you look at the Apostle Paul’s life around the Mediterranean Sea, he did not set up moral or ethical societies. He set up churches. He fought battles against the forces of evil. Yet he did not seem to be the least bit frightened or phased. He was always working from a position of victory knowing that on the cross Christ has defeated the devil. Therefore, there is nothing to fear in the act of fighting. Paradoxically the safest place to be is on the battle field for there you will find that Christ is real and active.

Sadly, many Christians have thrown the towel into the ring before the battle starts. They aren’t interested. The devil with his superior intelligence has deceived, accused and confused them. John describes him as; ‘the deceiver of the whole world.’ Yes, we may get bloody noses as Paul and many others did. But are we prepared to fight for Christ in his power and grace this incoming year, or take it easy?

Be of good cheer. God’s redemptive plan is being worked out and he wants us to help him fulfill it.

Rev Alan Wilson is a recently retired Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland. He was a former Police Officer during the ‘troubles’ before going into the ministry. He is married to Ann and they are now proud grandparents of Jacob and Cora. He enjoys keeping Alpaccas, gardening, watching football and learning how theology relates to the environment and the world at large. He and his wife spent a summer Exchange in 2018 with a Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

The image shows, “The Fall of the Rebel Angels,” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1562.

What Is God’s Image And Likeness?

“The internal counsels of the Blessed Trinity when He deigned to create man have been mercifully revealed to us in the book of Genesis: “Let us make man to our image and likeness” (1:26).

This passage, frequently cited, is not widely understood. In what way may it be said that man is in God’s image and likeness? Is this likeness to God natural or supernatural? What is the purpose of man being so made?

The questions are worth pondering because they touch directly upon man’s origins, his nature, and his ultimate purpose.

In Question 93 of Part I of the Summa Theologiae, Saint Thomas Aquinas considers “the end or term of the production of man” in nine articles. What I propose to do in this Ad Rem is, first, to give a truncated summary of all nine articles, with the help of Father Paul Glenn, whose work I have used with my own embellishments; second, I purpose to dwell in more detail on some select points Saint Thomas makes regarding the nature and purpose of the divine image in man.

Here are each of the articles as Saint Thomas posits them, with a summary of what he says under each heading:

1. Whether the image of God is in man? YES. An image is a kind of copy of its prototype. Unless the image is in every way perfect, it is not the equal of its prototype. Finite man cannot be a perfect image of the infinite God. Man is therefore an imperfect image of God.

2. Whether the image of God is to be found in irrational creatures? NO. Of earthly creatures, only man has a true likeness to God; other creatures have a trace or vestige of God rather than an image.

3. Whether the angels are more to the image of God than man is? The angels are more perfect in their intellectual nature than man is, and, therefore bear a more perfect image of God than man does. In some respects, however, man is more like to God than angels are. For man proceeds from man, as God (in the mysterious proceeding of the divine Persons) proceeds from God; whereas angels do not proceed from angels. Also, the manner of the human soul’s presence in the body has a likeness to God’s presence in the universe. But these human resemblances lacking in angels are only accidental qualities. Substantially, angels bear a more perfect image of God than man does.

4. Whether the image of God is found in every man? YES. There are three ways that man is in the image of God (which will be considered below).

5. Whether the image of God is in man according to the Trinity of Persons? YES. The divine image in man reflects God in Unity and also in Trinity. In creating man, God said (Gen. 1:26): “Let us make man to our own image and likeness.”

6. Whether the image of God is in man as regards the mind only? YES. The image of God in Trinity appears in man’s intellect and will and their interaction. In God, the Father begets the Word; the Father and the Word spirate the Holy Ghost. In man, the intellect begets the word or concept; the intellect with its word wins the recognition or love of the will. God’s image is not in the body, where there are only to be found “traces” or “vestiges” of God (just as in brute creation), by virtue of God’s being the cause of man’s body.

7. Whether the image of God is to be found in the acts of the soul? YES. The image of the Trinity is found in the acts of the soul. In a secondary way, this image is found in the faculties of the soul, and in the habits which render the faculties apt and facile in operation.

8. Whether the image of the Divine Trinity is in the soul only by comparison with God as its object? YES. The image of God is in the soul, not simply because the soul can know and love itself or other created things, but because it can know and love God. And the divine image is found in the soul because the soul turns to God, or, at any rate, has a nature that enables it to turn to God. (More on this below.)

9. Whether “likeness” is properly distinguished from “image”? YES. The image of God is discerned in the acts and faculties and habits of the soul. The likeness of God is either a quality of this image, or it is the state of the soul as spiritual, not subject to decay or dissolution.

Essential to the notion of an image is “that it is copied from something else.” Every image is a likeness, but not every likeness is an image. Saint Thomas gives the example of two eggs being like each other, but the one is not the image of the other, because it is not copied from it.

For a copy to be an image of the original, it need not be equal to it; for instance, the reflection of a man in a glass, which is an image, is not equal to the man himself. Because the only-begotten Son of God — “who is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) — is the only image that actually equals God, He is a perfect image of God, whereas each man is an imperfect image of God. Of the only-begotten Son of God, it may be said that he is the image of God simply; of man it may be said that he was made “to the image of God,” says Saint Thomas, because, “‘to’ signifies a certain approach, as of something at a distance.”

Saint Thomas follows Augustine in saying that “image” and “likeness” are not identical. Certain passages in the writings of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, of Saint John Damascene, and of Peter Lombard could lead us to interpret the word “image” to mean man’s nature as a rational, free-willed creature, and “likeness” as a closer resemblance to God by grace. This is not exactly how Saint Thomas views the question.

For him, “likeness” signifies two distinct things, one lower, the other higher. First, a likeness is a “preamble” to image inasmuch as it is “more general than image”; but, in a higher way, a likeness is a “perfection” of the image. (It is to get ahead of ourselves, but “likeness” in this higher sense as a perfection of the image admits of degrees:

Mary is more like God than the great Saints; those higher in heaven are more “God-like” than those lower; and on earth, the members of the Church Militant in a higher degree of grace and charity are more divinized or “like God” than their less perfect brethren.)

There are three ways that man is in God’s image. Saint Thomas’ explanation of this is clear and easy to understand:

“Since man is said to be the image of God by reason of his intellectual nature, he is the most perfectly like God according to that in which he can best imitate God in his intellectual nature. Now the intellectual nature imitates God chiefly in this, that God understands and loves Himself. Wherefore we see that the image of God is in man in three ways.

“First, inasmuch as man possesses a natural aptitude for understanding and loving God; and this aptitude consists in the very nature of the mind, which is common to all men.

“Secondly, inasmuch as man actually and habitually knows and loves God, though imperfectly; and this image consists in the conformity of grace.

Thirdly, inasmuch as man knows and loves God perfectly; and this image consists in the likeness of glory. Wherefore on the words, “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us” (Psalm 4:7), the gloss distinguishes a threefold image of “creation,” of “re-creation,” and of “likeness.” The first is found in all men, the second only in the just, the third only in the blessed.”

The image of God in man is not merely the image of the divine nature or the image of one or other of the divine Persons, but it is specifically the image of the Trinity. The proofs for this that Saint Thomas offers are a very theological and would take too much space even to summarize here. But Thomas’ explanation of how man images the Trinity is within our grasp. He bases himself on the doctrine of the Trinitarian processions he has already developed:

“As the uncreated Trinity is distinguished by the procession of the Word from the Speaker [the Father], and of Love [the Holy Ghost] from both of these, as we have seen…; so we may say that in rational creatures wherein we find a procession of the word in the intellect, and a procession of the love in the will, there exists an image of the uncreated Trinity.…”

The question Saint Thomas asks in article eight (“Whether the image of the Divine Trinity is in the soul only by comparison with God as its object?”) is difficult to grasp, but worth considering for its richness and how it perfectly corresponds to Saint Thomas’ teaching on grace. Indeed, it is a prelude to that beautiful doctrine.

I will try to simplify the article.

God knows Himself and loves Himself, and thence originate the Trinity of Persons. Is man in God’s image because he can, like God, know himself and love himself, or is he is God’s image because he can know and love God? The ability to know and love himself would make man like God is some way, as he would resemble God’s abilities to know and love.

But, this would not make man attain a “representation of the species,” i.e., a resemblance to the form or mental idea of God, which is required for man to be in the “image” of God. “Wherefore we need to seek in the image of the Divine Trinity in the soul some kind of representation of species [i.e., mental concept, form, or idea] of the Divine Persons, so far as this is possible to a creature. … Thus the image of God is found in the soul according as the soul turns to God, or possesses a nature that enables it to turn to God.”

Hard to understand, I know, especially if the reader is not familiar with the scholastic concept of species. The argument is Saint Thomas’ attempt at explaining why Saint Augustine said, “The image of God exists in the mind, not because it has a remembrance of itself, loves itself, and understands itself; but because it can also remember, understand, and love God by Whom it was made.”

What this implies is that, even in God’s very creation of man in His own (Trinitarian) image and likeness, God orients man toward Himself as the end of our knowledge and love.

By nature, we have the capacity to know and love God as He is naturally knowable, but, with grace and the infused theological virtues, we can know and love God supernaturally, as He has revealed Himself. We can thereby merit, and the reward of that merit is the consummation of our knowledge and love of God in Heaven.

Thus man’s final cause, or purpose – of which the philosophers say that it is “the first [cause] in intention and the last in execution” – was placed in him when he was created, being made to God’s own image and likeness.

Brother André Marie is Prior of St. Benedict Center, an apostolate of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond New Hampshire. He does a weekly Internet Radio show, Reconquest, which airs on the Veritas Radio Network’s Crusade Channel.

The photo shows, “God the Father on a throne, with Virgin Mary and Jesus,” ca. 15th-century, anonymous.

Frederick The Second

This book defies easy characterization. It is, to be sure, a biography of the last of the great German medieval emperors, Frederick II Hohenstaufen. But it vibrates with a subdued roar under the surface. By turns it is fierce, melodramatic, evocative, pitying, and electric. Maybe, in 1927, with Germany at its nadir,

Ernst Kantorowicz was trying to channel the modern age of steel and thunder, translating it through the works of a long-dead megalomaniac king into a hoped-for new era. Or maybe he aimed to wake the ancient ghost of Frederick, stirring him from his long sleep in the Kyffhäuser Mountains. Either way, Kantorowicz did see reborn the German energies he thought should be reborn. But as with most summoned spirits, the rebirth did not advantage the summoner.

Frederick II, born in 1194, was the son of Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Constance, Queen of Sicily. Henry’s father had been Frederick I Barbarossa, perhaps the most famous of all German emperors. Constance’s father was Roger II, the centralizer of Norman Sicily.

This illustrious pedigree meant that Frederick claimed both all of southern Italy and most of Germany—but not northern Italy, or the Papal States, the combined cause of the greatest challenges of his reign. The High Middle Ages were beginning, and many changes were afoot—not only in Europe, where Richard II Lionheart, John Lackland, and Saint Louis IX were Frederick’s contemporaries, but in the Middle East, where Islam had entered its long decline, accelerated during Frederick’s reign by the start of the Mongol invasions.

It was an interesting time, and a tremendously intricate time, and one that it is hard for us to fully grasp. Men and women were the same as us, yet viewed the world very differently in many ways. Frederick himself is often, far too often, presented to us as some kind of proto-modern, supposedly a man of unique tolerance and liberality.

He was none of those things. He was a man convinced of his world-bestriding importance, fascinated by the new things in his world, and indifferent to much beyond his own sense of destiny. He never quite accomplished his goals, and his heirs died in pain, ignominy, or obscurity, quickly losing grasp of all Frederick had worked for.

But he did not know that, and so, perhaps, he died largely satisfied. And he would no doubt have been pleased that for nearly a thousand years, many Germans have looked to his reign as the apogee of German heroic power, to evoke which Kantorowicz wrote this book.

The reason Frederick is incorrectly perceived as of a different kind of medieval king is because others have always benefited from casting him in a certain light. His brutal lifelong struggle with the temporal power of the Papacy has made him distasteful ever since to Roman Catholics, especially those of an ultramontanist bent.

This grew the legend of him as anti-Catholic, which proved useful for purveyors of Protestant propaganda after the Reformation and anti-Christian propaganda after the Enlightenment. All these groups found that the fevered polemics hurled against Frederick to gain support for the Pope were later fertile sources of lurid, therefore useful, tales about Frederick’s perfidy and supposed hatred of religion.

And, of course, Frederick had his own propagandists, which is why he is still known to some as the stupor mundi, the “wonder of the world,” though perhaps better translated as “marvel” or “astonishment.”

After eight hundred years of this, it’s hard to recapture the man, but Kantorowicz does a good job—and then uses Frederick for his own purposes, casting him as an exemplar for twentieth-century Germans needing a hero in an age of German degradation.

Kantorowicz himself had a life that fits poorly into our paucified modern categories. Born in 1895, he fought in World War I, and then in the Freikorps against Communist killers. He became a disciple of the poet Stefan George, part of the Conservative Revolution.

George was a mystical, anti-modernist type, focused on the rebirth of the German nation, bidding it emerge as an intellectual creation, breaking through the rough crust of current troubles to create a new Germany, led by a physical and spiritual aristocracy (who, as typical in these cultish groups of eggheads, would be led by the disciples of the Master, as they called George). Some of these ideas, which were in the air all over Germany, were taken up by the National Socialists, as usual modified for cruder, and therefore more effective, propaganda purposes.

However, George’s circle is remembered today mostly because they inspired a variety of anti-Hitler plotters in later years, after George’s death in 1933, including most famously Claus von Stauffenberg. By that time, though, Kantorowicz, Jewish by birth, was long departed from Germany, moving to California after Kristallnacht. He lived there until 1963, publishing other books and trying to disown this book, but it is still the one for which he is most remembered.

Thus, Kantorowicz was of a specific German political type of the first decades of the twentieth century, often, and often unfairly, associated with the National Socialists. He was one of many who rejected liberalism and cried out for German greatness to be restored. Such ideas were adopted by the NSDAP, but that does not make them National Socialist ideas.

If the besetting sin of left-wing intellectuals is direct participation in and furthering of evil (and it is), the besetting sin of right-wing intellectuals seems to be their irrepressible belief that their superior intelligence and insight will allow them to control, direct, and rule other men who implement their ideas in a bastardized form aided by violence.

I don’t know if the National Socialists used this book to any great degree (it does not appear so), but its author, and Stefan George’s circle, seem to fit right into this right-wing paradigm, which always loses out to those less interested in thinking and more interested in doing. Then the intellectuals on the Right invariably wonder what happened—as was the case with Carl Schmitt. It’s a vaguely pathetic pattern, and likely one we’ll see in America in the coming years.

When Kantorowicz published Frederick the Second, as a young man with an incomplete doctorate in Muslim economic history, professional historians were aghast at the book’s departures from history-writing orthodoxy.

Kantorowicz did not offer footnotes (although he later added an entire volume with sources and references to satisfy his critics), and more to the point, wrote history as epic, blurring the line between fact and legend, openly using Frederick’s life as a platform for the restoration of Germany on heroic lines.

At this remove, I can’t tell if the historians attacking Kantorowicz were legitimate historians, or the type of “historian” that dominates our own times, whose main project is to view history, and rewrite it, through a Left lens. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose; Kantorowicz’s book stands now on its own.

In Kantorowicz’s telling, Frederick was generous and open-handed; self-assured to an extreme degree and with great personal magnetism; openly proclaiming of his intentions and views; eager to learn but fiercely protective of his prerogatives and his aims.

He was highly educated, speaking several languages (including Arabic) and keenly interested in sports such as falconry. He hated heretics and he hated rebels; they were, after all, the same thing. Frederick saw himself as an instrument of Providence; he may have sometimes confused whether, exactly, God was truly superior to him, but he was not an atheist or even a religious freethinker.

Not that he was a pious man; if anything, he was a proto-Machiavellian, very aware of the uses of religion for power, in his case usually to his disadvantage. Yet his goal was not Machiavellian; he sought the standard medieval formula of “peace and justice,” as in the time of the Emperor Augustus.

Like most mighty men, he probably thought God owed him; he reminds one in this respect (and none other) of that moral pygmy Michael Bloomberg, who infamously said “[I]f there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” No doubt he will find out, soon enough, and no doubt Frederick has as well.

It is all so very complicated. Guelf and Ghibelline; German princes and Sicilian lords; Lombard towns and Calabrian fortresses; Venice and Genoa; Jerusalem and the Eternal City; and much, much more.

In brief, Frederick grew up in Sicily, under his mother’s rule of the territory, since his German inheritance (which was technically elective, after all) was in dispute between his uncle, Philip of Swabia, and the Welf contender, Otto of Brunswick, briefly Otto IV.

When his mother died, before Frederick came of age, he became a ward of the Pope, Innocent III, a mighty medieval pope many of whose designs, from the Fourth Crusade to demanding ever-greater papal temporal supremacy, ultimately went wrong. Frederick, when he came of age, avoided open conflict with him, instead focusing on reuniting his Sicilian domains with his father’s German domains.

Frederick failed to participate in the Fifth Crusade despite his promise, and was blamed for its failure; he did participate in the Sixth Crusade and negotiated the re-transfer of Jerusalem to the Christians with Al-Kamil, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, who had defeated the Fifth Crusade (and had met Saint Francis of Assisi then), but who had his own problems and didn’t want the hassle of another war with the Christians.

The episode of the “retaking” of Jerusalem is emblematic of the way everything Frederick did was viewed through two lenses. In the eyes of Frederick and his partisans, this was a heroic victory that buttressed Frederick’s claim to be the true inheritor of the mantle of the Emperors of Rome.

In the eyes of his enemies, it was a craven cop-out by an excommunicate eager to score a cheap propaganda victory of limited durability and thereby aggrandize himself, though they did not explain how many earlier failures to free Jerusalem by force could this time have been bettered by fighting instead of negotiating.

In any case, successive popes, notably Gregory IX and Innocent IV, saw Frederick as a menace, since he threatened to fully surround the Papal States. They could not abide this, and therefore could not abide Frederick. Conflict under these premises was inevitable.

So, Frederick struggled for decades to break the power of the Papacy and its on-again, off-again allies, the north Italian cities of the Lombard League, together with other intermittent allies.

Along the way he had other projects: he masterminded the conquering of Prussia by the Teutonic Knights, under the Grand Mastership of Hermann of Salza, a close counselor of his (and go-between with the Pope), laying the groundwork for seven centuries of the importance of Prussia to Germany (although now, to be sure, most of those territories are no longer part of Germany).

He made a few more half-hearted efforts towards the East, as well; Kantorowicz interprets this as the need for the King of the West to be the King of the East in order to be the World Ruler, which seems a very big leap.

Those were side projects, though; Frederick spent his life primarily in endless back-and-forth fighting to achieve a unified realm with an Italian focus, ultimately falling short and dying of an intestinal complaint in 1250 at the age of fifty-six. His heirs all died, and his line ended with his grandson, Conradin, executed at age sixteen by Charles of Anjou in 1268 (a man who, strangely, has recently received attention from sections of the resurgent, fermenting American Right).

The long-term effects of the struggle between Frederick and the Papacy were very significant. Kantorowicz blames Innocent for trying to wholly eliminate the separation of the temporal and spiritual power, thereby causing increased conflict with the temporal power and, ultimately, the erosion of the Pope’s spiritual power.

To the consequences of this Kantorowicz ascribes most of the events and later consequences of Frederick’s career, which might otherwise have resulted in a German Empire from the Baltics to Palermo, with the Papal States still extant but effectively without substantial temporal power.

If Frederick had had a free hand, he would not have had to grant to the great lords of Germany near total independence from the Empire, in effect making them kinglets with only nominal obedience to the Emperor, which caused Frederick little immediate trouble but set the pattern for a fragmented Germany for hundreds of years.

He might have forged a true empire—but he spent his power on the challenges he met, making the compromises he needed to make, and thus he could not weld together Germany into the empire that Kantorowicz so clearly thought was Germany’s destiny.

In his Italian possessions, on the other hand, Frederick was a modernizing centralizer, eroding feudal institutions, continuing the rebirth of Roman law and the reformation of justice and administration, and, in general, trying to act like a real Emperor of Rome.

This created the first modern state, though it, too, fragmented after Frederick’s death, leaving itself as an example for later monarchs.

I was interested to see that Kantorowicz credits Frederick with presiding over a great flourishing of art, especially of poetry, but also other arts. What matters for great art is having a great ruling class, and this is another piece of historical evidence for my thesis. Kantorowicz describes it as neither “frivolity nor royal fashion, but an incomparable vigor of the blood, which even in ruin demands glory and fame.” Vigor is it, I think; no vigor, no great art, and vice versa.

Frederick’s long struggle with the Papacy is instructive for political debates today, in a way inconceivable even five years ago.

Some, notably the Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule, who claims to desire a reworked state (but will not fight against any aspect of the current state that might get him disinvited from dinner parties in Cambridge), suggest that Papal supremacy in the mold of Innocent III’s program, which he calls integralism, was a political system which it would be desirable to rebirth today. Whether Vermeule really thinks this I cannot be sure (and I am less sure now that he has, for no reason I can fathom other than I am far more charismatic than him, blocked me on Twitter).

But, certainly, actual history does not bear the weight of this optimism. Giving the Pope the power of Caesar inevitably leads to corruption of the spiritual power and, I suspect, a sharp reduction in human flourishing, which requires secular achievement along with spiritual focus. The Pope, or more generally the spiritual power, is not cut out, by vocation or temperament, for temporal power, and this is pretty clear from history.

Now, Andrew Willard Jones argued in his recent analysis of the society of Louis IX, Beyond Church and State, that matters are not so simple. Jones drew thirteenth-century France as a state where church and state acted as one, with no conception of the secular being divided from the spiritual, or of those as indistinguishable concepts at all.

This model, also called integralism but of a much different and much more durable character, did not imply papal temporal supremacy, but rather a set of joint obligations based on custom and the needs of both Church and State, which were one and the same as the needs of society.

That model, common in the West from the time of Charlemagne until the Renaissance, does not have the same grievous problems as the overreaching Innocent III model, though as always practice is harder than theory, and Louis had plenty of conflicts with the Church.

Of course, Frederick was no Saint Louis, but had the Pope been less overreaching, the Holy Roman Empire might have ended up closer to this type of cooperative monarchy.

I analyze such matters, and their current applicability, at greater length in my review of Jones’s book, so I will not repeat myself here. But that the Pope should not be given significant temporal power is also supported by a running theme in Kantorowicz’s book—the role in both state and society of the new mendicant orders, especially the Franciscans, but also the Dominicans.

Saint Francis was a contemporary of Frederick, and the mendicant orders frequently openly supported the Emperor against the Pope, correctly seeing the medieval Church as corrupt and overly focused on the things of this world. The pope we have now named himself after Saint Francis, and seems to think that pretending he is poor makes him the heir of Saint Francis, so it would seem that the battle was won.

But that perception is false. The point of Saint Francis was that he set himself against the things of this world, which in his day meant wealth and the corruption it wrought.

Today, when the whole world has wealth of which men in that age could not even dream, the things of this world that corrupt are not primarily wealth, but instead the corruption birthed by the Enlightenment, flowing from the worship of the atomized self.

The manifestations of this are many, but they may all be subsumed under the desire of men to be as gods, to be subject to no limits and no unchosen bonds. This corruption, through either stupidity or malice, Pope Francis and the evil men who surround him have mostly fully embraced.

I have little doubt that Saint Francis would scorn Pope Francis far more than he scorned the rich prelates of his own time, seeing this essentially spiritual corruption, cloaked with oily words spoken with forked tongue, as far more damaging to the Church (and to the State, though that was Frederick’s, not Saint Francis’s, area of concern).

What this means in the context of this book is that, logically, those within the Catholic Church today who still hold to its ancient truths, must, like the mendicant orders of the thirteenth century, in practice align with the new, rising temporal right-wing powers against the princes of the Church, together to, in Kantorowicz’s words, “fight the common foe, the degenerate Church.”

Since the Church shows no sign of reforming itself, the aim should be the overthrowing of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy, by force, if necessary, and its restoration through a (hopefully temporary) form of caesaropapism, thereby benefiting both Church and State.

That sounds bizarre, but such events were, until the modern era, more the norm than today’s state of evil dreaming. Returning to the old way, where the temporal power dictated to the spiritual power when it got too far out of line and became destructive of larger society, seems pretty attractive right now.

But the Catholic Church wasn’t what Kantorowicz cared about. He cared about Germany, and its once and hoped-for future greatness. For all that he was ultimately a failure, Kantorowicz credits Frederick with forging a new German spirit by combining German traditions with Roman forms and culture.

What Kantorowicz explicitly wanted is what Frederick fell short of, “that full perfection of the German Empire, a mighty Emperor surrounded by his mighty princes.” In a few short years after this book, Kantorowicz saw that Empire reborn, and no doubt it was nothing as he had hoped.

Today, of course, Germany is a dying thing, pathetic and useless, like all of Western Europe, eagerly abasing itself before invaders who are only too happy to assist the suicide of what little remains of the high German culture and spirit that Kantorowicz so admired, built up over a thousand years.

Even were there no invaders, Germany is, it appears, exhausted at the end of history. It certainly seems unlikely to be reborn, and one wonders, what would a man like Kantorowicz, or a man like Frederick, say if he saw it today? Probably nothing. He would just cry.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The photo shows a portrait of Frederick the Second from his book, The Art of Hunting with Birds, from the 13th-century.

How Not To Misunderstand The Bible

There are certain ideas that, once introduced, tend to change how people think of everything else. This is certainly the case with the Bible. For of all the ideas about the Scripture, the most recent is the notion of “the Bible.”

The word “Bible” simply means “book.” Thus, it is a name that means “the Book.” It is a particularly late notion if for no other reason than that books are a rather late invention. There are examples of bound folios of the New Testament dating to around the 4th century, but they may very well have been some of the earliest examples of such productions.

The Emperor Constantine commissioned a large number of such copies (all produced by hand) as gifts to the Bishops of the Church. How many such editions is unknown, though it may have been several hundred. One of the four manuscripts dating to the 4th century may very well be a survivor of that famous group.

In the Church (and to this day in Orthodoxy), the gospels are bound as one book and the Epistles, etc., are bound as another. And these are only those books appointed for reading in the Church. The Revelation is not usually included in such editions.

The “Bible,” a single book with the whole of the Scriptures included, is indeed modern. It is a by-product of the printing press, fostered by the doctrines of Protestantism. For it is not until the advent of Protestant teaching that the concept of the Bible begins to evolve into what it has become today.

The New Testament uses the word “scriptures” (literally, “the writings”) when it refers to the Old Testament, but it is a very loose term. There was no authoritative notion of a canon of the Old Testament. There were the Books of Moses and the Prophets (cf. Luke 24:27) and there were other writings (the Psalms, Proverbs, etc.).

But writers of the New Testament seem to have had no clear guide for what is authoritative and what is not. The book of Jude makes use of the Assumption of Moses as well as the Book of Enoch, without so much as a blush. There are other examples of so-called “non-canonical” works in the New Testament.

It is difficult on this side of the Reformation for people to have a proper feel for the Scriptures. First, though we say “Scriptures” (sometimes) we are just as likely to say “Scripture” (singular) and always have that meaning in mind regardless. We think of the Scriptures as a single book. And with this thought we tend to think of everything in the Book as of equal value, equal authenticity, equal reliability, equal authority, etc. And this is simply not the case and never has been.

The New Testament represents, in various forms, the Christian appropriation and re-reading of the Scriptures of Pharisaic Judaism (or even wider). The writings in the Old Testament do not, of themselves, point to Christ or prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. The Jews of Christ’s time, though expectant of a Messiah (God’s “Anointed One”), did not expect such a one to be the Son of God, nor Divine, nor to be crucified dead and resurrected.

All of these understandings with regard to Christ are understandings that are post-resurrectional. The New Testament is quite clear that the disciples understood none of these things until after Christ’s resurrection, despite being told them numerous times. St. Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians describes the failure of the Jews to see Christ in the writings of the Old Testament as a “veil,” and compares it to the veil that Moses put over his face.

Thus the New Testament reading of the Old Testament is a “revelation” (an “apocalypse”) of the “mystery hidden from before all the ages.” Were it clear in the Old Testament, the mystery would not have been hidden. This is a unique and peculiar claim of the primitive Christian community. They present a novel, even apocalyptic interpretation of the writings of Judaism, and describe them as the true meaning of the Scriptures as revealed in Jesus Christ.

This is a world removed from modern (post-Reformation) claims for the Bible.  For the equality (in authority, authenticity, etc.) of each writing within the Scriptures only becomes paramount when their individual worth is eradicated in their assumption by the whole. Thus, Joshua suddenly becomes of equal importance with the Pentateuch (the 5 books of Moses) simply by reason of being included in “the Bible.” But historically, the book of Joshua never held the kind of central role that belonged to the Pentateuch. Saying this is not intended to diminish its importance, only to remove an importance to which it is not properly due.

Of course, starting down such a course raises enormous red flags for many. The concern would easily be voiced, “How, then, do you know what is more valuable and what less?” And this brings us back to the proper place. For the role of interpretation, weighing, comparing, etc., is the role of the Church, the believing community.

There can be no Scriptures outside the Church. To say, “Scriptures,” is simply to name those writings which the believing Church holds to be important and authoritative – nothing more and nothing less. St. Hilary famously said, “The Scriptures are not in the reading, but in the understanding” (scriptura est non in legendo, sed in intelligendo).

The creation of a “canon” of Scripture was never more than a declaration of what a general consensus within the Church treated as authoritative. The Scriptures as a place for creating and proving formal doctrine is something of a fiction. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the primary verse trotted out in defense of Scriptural authority: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

But this is a very troublesome and questionable translation. In Protestant usage, the key phrase is “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” But, in fact, the phrase “given by inspiration of God” is a single word (θεόπνευστος), just as accurately translated, “all Scripture that is inspired of God,” thus being a limiting phrase and not one that serves as an authoritative licensing of something later described as “the Bible.”

What we actually have in 2 Timothy is a very homely, parenetic expression in which the author suggests that reading the Scriptures is a good thing. It is not, despite its use as such, a foundational proclamation of the Bible as sole authority. For it is the Church that is described as the “Pillar and Ground of Truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

And the “canon” of Scripture was historically not a list of authoritative books, but a list of those works commonly read in the Churches. It is, something of a catalog of the lectionary. What we actually find in the Fathers is not the later proof-texting from an authoritative text, the Master Book of All Knowledge, if you will, but a use of quotes that seemed at hand and most useful for whatever topic was being treated.

There are, to be sure, careful expository writings, such as those of St. John Chrysostom and others, but these are what they are: expositions of various writings. When the Church turned to the central core doctrines of the Faith, such as the Trinity, the natures and Person of Christ, the character of salvation, etc., arguments were far more wide-open and non-expository. Reason and language played as much of a role as Scripture itself.

The words homoousioshypostasis and ousia that play such completely central roles in the foundational doctrines of the Trinity and Christology are not given meanings drawn from Scripture, but from arguments that incorporate Scripture and every possible tool. 

The Church is not a Bible-based teaching institution – the Church is the Pillar and Ground of Truth, the Body of Christ, divinely given by God for our salvation and it uses the Scriptures and everything that exists for the purpose of expounding the truth it has received from God from the very beginning.

The only “thing” approaching a “Bible” in the sense that has commonly been used in modern parlance, is the Church. The Scriptures have their place within the life of the Church and only exist as Scriptures within that context.

****

[Protestants will] take me to task for arguing that “books” themselves are late inventions and contending that the Bible was not therefore thought of as a “book.” [They may] cite some early codices from the late 2nd or early 3rd centuries – but [they become] examples that actually reinforce my central point. [They may] note examples of bound gospels and an example of bound epistles. What [they] cite are precisely what we would expect: liturgical items.

The Orthodox still use the Scriptures in this form – the Gospels as a book (it rests on the altar), and the Epistles as a book (known as the Apostol). They are bound in such a manner for their use in the services of the Church, not as private “Bibles.” These are outstanding examples of the Scriptures organized in their liturgical format for their proper use: reading in the Church. They are Churchly items – not “The Book” of later Protestantism. They are the Scriptures of the worshipping Church.

And this is my point. The Scriptures are not “above” the Church nor the Church “above” the Scriptures. The Scriptures are “of” the Church and do not stand apart from the Church.

It is very difficult to have a conversation with certain Protestants. They have a view of the Scriptures as “Bible,” rather than a more contextualized position as part of the life of the Church. Any attempt to rein in their run-away Bible-agenda is seen as an attempt to diminish the Word of God or to exalt the Church to some wicked deceiver of Christians. But this is simply the tired rhetoric of the Reformation. I do not seek to convince readers that the Bible is a problematic construction – rather – Sola Scriptura Christians are problematic interpreters. The fruit of their work bears me out.

Sola Scriptura, as taught and practiced in Protestant thought, is simply wrong and an invention of the Late Medieval and Modern periods. All of the writers cited by [Protestants] for their “lists” of books are eventually described as the “Canon of Scripture,” [and] are Orthodox Christians, mostly priests and bishops. They spoke and thought as the Orthodox do to this day.

They never (!) saw the Bible as a book “over the Church.” These were men of a thoroughly sacramental world. The Bread and the Wine of the Eucharist was universally believed to be the very Body and Blood of Christ. These men ate God (using the language of St. Ignatius of Antioch).

Yes, the Scriptures are theopneustos (“God breathed”), but so is every human soul. The God-breathed character of the Scriptures does not exalt them over us but raises them up to the same level as us. For ancient authorities (and the Orthodox faithful to this day) were Baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ and were thereby united together with Him.

The Church was not and is not “under” the Bible, for it cannot be. Christ is Head of the Church, part of His Body. Is Christ “under the Scriptures?” All of the “lists” that are cited in the notion of the evolution of the Canon are lists of what the Church reads. 

And the Church reads them in her services as the Divine Word of God, just as the Church herself is the Divine Body of Christ, just as the Liturgy is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, etc. The “Canon” of Scripture is as much a statement about the Church as it is about the Scriptures.

But all of this is lost, because for those who have reformed themselves out of communion with the historical faith and practice of Christianity, the context has been forgotten. They do not understand statements about the Church because they have forgotten the Church.

There are crucial tests that can be applied that reveal the truth of things and the errors of Sola Scriptura. The championing of the Bible as the Word of God “over the Church” is a ruse. It is and has been a means of exalting culture and private fiefdoms over the proper life of the believing community, disrupting the continuity of faith.

A very grievous example can be found in the very American reform community from which Kruger criticizes my Orthodox teaching. For the very groups that exalted the Bible as Sola Scriptura, for years also exalted a Bible-based justification for the most egregious racism the world has ever seen. It has been a matter to which reformed Christians are today attending with repentance (to their credit).

But by what criteria did their fathers find such racism in the Scriptures? And by what criteria do they themselves now not find it in the Scriptures? Are they not simply giving voice to various cultural winds and using the Scriptures as a convenient support? Have they not always done this? Today’s proponents of the radical sexual agenda rightly point out that these “Bible-based” teachers have always found Biblical support for their own cultural prejudices. Their history should leave them speechless.

Orthodoxy is not without its sinners. But in the 2000-year unbroken life of the Church, error has never been raised to the place of “Biblical teaching.” The Orthodox have never said that blacks do not have souls.

The Orthodox have never declared one race to be inferior to another. Biblicists do well to repent of such things, but they fail to see that their own hermeneutical principles are at fault. Only a life lived with a true, genuine continuity of the tradition that is the very life of the Church can “rightly divide the word of truth:” Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

God promised to the Church that the gates of hell would not prevail. He declared the Church to be the Pillar and Ground of Truth. He revealed the Church to be the Bride of Christ (and I could fill pages with such statements).

This is not to exalt the Church “over” the Scriptures, but to recognize the Scriptures place within the Divine Life of the Church. The Orthodox do not exalt a bishop over the Scriptures, nor do we declare a bishop to be the head of the Church (we declare that to be error).

But we acknowledge that the Scriptures cannot be rightly read outside of and apart from the life of the Church. Such decoupling of the Scriptures has only created false churches, false brethren, and false teaching. No gathering of Christians hears as much Scripture as the Orthodox do in the context of their services. The Orthodox liturgical life is the singing of Scripture in the praise of God (from beginning to end).

But in the name of “Biblical authority” contemporary Christians are today subjected to a growing and continuing phenomenon of rogue organizations built around charismatic personalities with little or no accountability (except to “the Bible” as they see it). Orthodoxy lives by the same rules (canons) that were in effect when the Scriptures were “canonized.”

Those who canonized the Scriptures venerated the Mother of God, honored the saints, prayed for the departed, believed the Eucharist to be the true Body and Blood of Christ. They were the same Orthodox Church that lives and believes today. You cannot honor their “Canon of Scripture” while despising the lives and Church of those who canonized them.

While the Orthodox Church lives the same life under the same canons, reading the same Scriptures as it has always done – those who champion “God’s un-changing Word” and claim to be under the authority of the Bible cannot point to even two decades in which they have remained the same. They are a moving target. It is to be welcomed when they repent of past institutional sins – but their history reveals that they have primarily been subject to the spirit of the age, even if it’s a conservative spirit.

Christ never wrote a word. Christ never commanded his disciples to write a word (an exception being in Revelation). They were commanded to go forth, preach the gospel and to Baptize. Christ established the Church. The Church is the Scriptures and the Scriptures, rightly read, are the Church. This is the declaration of St. Paul to the Church in Corinth: “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

Is that epistle of less value because it is not written in ink? It is only by being the living Scriptures that the Church can and does truly read and interpret the Scriptures. There is no “Bible” in the Bible.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The photo shows a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, from 1454.

Why Environmentalism Fails

Environmentalism, or ecologism, is a failure both as a science and as an ideology. It fails as a science because it cannot show “anthropogeneity” to be true, whereby mankind can actually alter the course of natural reality, nor can it define what it actually means by “nature,” and by “science.

As for its alarmism – is CO2 the great monster of our time that is being set loose by avaricious mankind for short-term gain, with dire results for all life on this planet? Or, is this all a great con-job by certain avaricious members of mankind for long-term gain? Evidence is shown to support both sides. This raises a problem with logic. If there are two contradictory types of evidence for one assumption, then the assertion that only one side of the argument is “true” is a lie. More crucially, “science” can hardly be “settled,” when it continually offers two opposing answers to one thesis.

This renders environmentalism nothing more than weak sociology – that is, a process of rhetoric, through which a drastic change of society is the desired outcome. In other words, a social science. And it is weak because it has no inherent verity – since it continually needs the support of rhetoric and political will in order to promote itself. In other words, environmentalism is merely sociologism, or a process to bring about revolution – that is, a “liberation” from all perceived wrongs of the past. Thus, environmentalism is pure ideology; and nothing else. (As a reminder, ideology is a form of speculative thought that seeks to justify a particular social action).

But is environmentalism a strong ideology? Hardly. It is nothing more than a jumble of contradictions.

First, environmentalism cannot define its own terms. It seeks to protect “nature,” but what is this “nature” that needs political salvation? Nor can it define what is means by “science.” Both these terms are continually invoked, as if they have a self-evident definition, which is not the case.

In the twenty-first century, “science” only means two types of paradigms – the Cartesian and the Neo-Darwinian. There is no third.

The Cartesian, or mathematical approach, states that “nature” is a construction of human reason (where mathematics is the mode of explanation). This is not because “nature” in itself is mathematical, but because human reason is mathematical. For Descartes, “nature” has no meaning outside the human mind. Thus, “nature,” only exists as a projection of reason. “Nature” does not inherently contain meaning, let alone truth. It possesses only matter and energy, which do not exist for a higher purpose. Only reason gives them that purpose.

Since “nature” has no being outside the human mind, what do activists want to protect outside the human? Random matter and energy? Thus, things like, “climate catastrophe,” do not exist in matter and energy. Rather, they are projects onto matter and energy by human reason.

This destroys any premise that environmentalism might want to offer as an explanation – for “nature” has no explanation. “Nature” is an idea – a function of human reason.

Next, there is Neo-Darwinism, which is concerned with the flow of genes, through the structure of evolution; that is, the mutation of genes and then their selection. Genes are, thus, packets of information (codes). This process of transmitting information into the future may be observed by way of an organism’s traits (the phenotype).

Once again, there is no “nature” as such – because everything essential happens at the genetic level, in which animate matter is nothing more than a container and delivery system for genes. Whatever might be termed “nature” shows itself to be nothing other than a continually evolving environment for genes to replicate in. This “environment” is essentially time, in which information will create the conditions that it needs to replicate – regardless of what mankind might or might not do, like releasing CO2.

In effect, Neo-Darwinism has no need for “nature,” because the phenomenal realm is always secondary to the micro-evolution of genes. Whatever destruction the phenomenal world might undergo, the genes will eventually reconfigure (recode), and keep replicating. And after destruction takes place, over time, complex life forms will once again evolve. Thus, there is no “nature” to destroy, because macro-ecology is nothing but a process of time. Whatever effect man might have on macro-ecology, micro-evolution remains unaffected. And it matters not at all whether CO2 is the great villain or not.

In fact, whatever “harm” mankind might be doing is ultimately part-and-parcel of the process of evolution, in which humanity is dutifully playing its role. If that role is one of “harm-bringer,” then so be it. Evolution will simply deal with it, reconfigure, recode and replicate.

Thus, the Cartesian paradigm denies environmentalism its rationale (“nature” is a construct of human reason). And Neo-Darwinism refutes environmentalism’s anthropogeneity, in that mankind can never alter the process of evolution. This means that environmentalism’s reliance on “science” is a sham. The alarmist claims about the loss of biodiversity, the collapse of ecosystems, and various extinction scenarios are meaningless in science as it is understood and practiced today.

This leaves only the projection of human emotion upon matter, energy, information, and time. In other, environmentalism is pure hysteria that has good political currency at the moment. But can any sort of economic, social, or cultural stability be built upon a lie?

Since environmentalism cannot claim any sort of “ownership” over science (Cartesian or Neo-Darwinian), anytime it uses scientific vocabulary, it contradicts itself. In the end, it possesses nothing.

Lastly, there is the question of humanity within nature. For Descartes, nature is formless and meaningless without human reason, which means that man creates the nature that he needs. For Neo-Darwinism, humanity is the subject of evolution, in that evolution creates mankind and will uncreate him in the flow of time. Thus, man can affect nothing in the process of information and time, no matter what he might get up to in the Destruction Department.

But environmentalism does have a rather effective weapon – mythology – through which it is now seeking to convince everyone that “nature” is “alive.” (Cue James Lovelock and his totem, “Gaia”). This endeavor also is bound to fail, because paganism was defeated long ago and thus can contribute nothing to the reality of human life in the twenty-first century.

The vain attempt to parse paganism as “ancient philosophy” is just wishful thinking, because paganism, as a vanquished paradigm, can no longer answer the fundamental question of life. And that question is this – How can I be free? Paganism was always about slavery (which is why it crumbled very quickly), for all it possessed was fear in the face of the incomprehensible. The habit of humanity to rely on reason can no longer be paganized, despite the efforts of universities and their Environmental Studies programs. Once the mind knows something, it cannot suddenly unknow it.

All this leaves environmentalism no real recourse but politics and the will of the state. But this is tyranny, which has failed every time it has been tried (though it does bring short-term misery). In effect, environmentalism is about defeat and failure – and thus it has no hold in the future.

The photo shows, “Metallic Tractors,” a print by James Gillray, London, England, 1801.

The Persecuted Church

The situation is not a good one in the Middle East if you are a Christian family.

The chances are you will either be persecuted or you become a refugee and in most cases both.

Historically in Iraq there were up to 7 million Christians until the invasion of Islam in 633AD (then known as Mesopotamia) which was designed to wipe out Christianity, its culture and tradition. It has never recovered since. IS have recently added to the persecution.

In many towns and cities across the middle east the mullahs announce from the minarets that all Christian’s are to leave immediately otherwise every one of them will face consequences or death.

There are 5 million orphans in Iraq; with Yemen, Kuwait and Qatar etc giving them money to be terrorists.

In one of the cities in Lebanon there are many Syrian and Iraq refugee Christians.

The church started out with 75 then 750 and now averages around 1500 believers and growing, There are 40 mid-week prayer groups.

What is happening on the ground? Many Muslims are coming to faith in Christ. Their thought their religion was infallible but now Sunni and Shia are at war with one another. Deep divisions exist between the two. The god they believed in no longer seem to be the god they can trust. Many Muslims in Iraq are coming to Christians to see if they can pray in Christian churches and ask for healing especially for their children. When Arabs come for healing and are anointed by oil, they believe they will be healed by a Christian priest.

Many people including children in Iraq have genetic defects caused by the bombing and nerve gas used in the Gulf war of 1990 and the Iraq War in 2003 which lasted 8 years.

Christians are giving Muslims food and sharing with them The Muslims ask ‘why does our enemy do this sort of thing. Why are they giving clothes and food to us’?

More Muslims have come to faith in the last 5 years than in the last 1500 years. This is a fact. This is the key to the gospel and the key to how the people move on with issues concerning the past in Northern Ireland. The past haunts the country. The longer it goes on people become more entrenched in their stance. How do you make an enemy your friend? This is the conundrum that nobody can figure out.

Politicians don’t even understand this basic question. How do you make an enemy your friend? By bombing them?

By reaching out to them; what does Jesus says; ‘you have heard that it was said love your neighbour and hate your enemy; but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; so that you may be sons of your father in heaven. Is Jesus, right? Of course, he is. But it’s costly. It’s sacrificial.

Jesus says; ‘a person must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’. Taking up your cross is voluntary.

Local pastors say that many countries had withdrawn their ambassadors from Syria because of the danger. But they themselves are Christ’s ambassadors; they cannot leave. The church from those early days in Straight St must be kept going. Christians fed by the word of God. They must stay and deny themselves as they take up their cross.

But many leave to because they cannot take any more and end up displaced or in refugee camps, where they are often persecuted even in the camps.

Persecution is a ‘Blessing’ for many. It drives people to fasting for days and praying and begging the Lord to tear down the citadels and strongholds of Satan.

People coming to faith are being released from sin and darkness.

Coming to church hungry to hear the word of God. Not looking at their watches in church services, not wanting to leave the church.

Praying for Revival with God’s spirit blowing into the hearts of Arab Christians, revival blows away the cobwebs of apathy, and affluence and hate. Pray that God would call people to be prayer warriors as not all Christians are gifted in this way. Praying for Satanic strongholds to fall and they are falling.

Christians are thanking the Lord for persecution.

A Christian Teacher in Pakistan was appointed principal of a local school. He had the qualifications and ability way ahead of other applicants. Muslim Parents came and told him to mark their children present in class when they were absent. He refused.

They took him outside and beat him up badly. He had to stay off school. Then they spread rumours that he wasn’t fit for the job. Then they accused him with blasphemy. Blasphemy carries death penalty.

An 8-year-old Christian girl was locked in the toilet all day by the teacher when Muslim girls complained that she should not be allowed to use the toilet. Persecution is spreading across all of sub-Sahara Africa. Yet people are being spoken to through dreams and visions just like Acts 2:15-. New life is sprouting up after the forest fire. Revival, persecution, blessing.

The Berlin Wall came down through prayer; the Communist Wall came down through prayer;

The Roman Catholic church will be refined. The Arab Muslim wall is falling apart. Do you think God is behind this? This is unprecedented. We are living in unparalleled times. This has all happened in the last 25 years; that’s pretty quick, don’t you think? Let’s think about what is going on instead of being blinkered and duped by Satan. Persecuted Christians need our help.

Arab Muslims are lost; their faith is a sham, it’s totally false. Mohammed was a fraud and a trickster. Oil money cannot buy them eternal life. God is highlighting this to the world. Look at the state of their countries. Even Saudi Arabia the lynch pin of the Arab world is in a mess.

They are building a wall 600 miles long between themselves and Iraq to the North to keep IS terrorists out. And this is against their fellow Muslims not Christians. Sunni are fighting Shia and vice versa. Look at what happens at Mecca.Many have been killed in stampedes with a crane falling on them 4 years ago at the Hajj pilgrimage. Lightning struck the crane before it fell over at the biggest mosque in the world designed to hold more than 2 million people. Is this all just chance?Saudi Arabia has spent billions on creating a highway for the pilgrims to reach Mecca. The design of this concrete highway was supposed to bring more pilgrims into Mecca instead it has caused chaos.

 Rev Farouk believes we are living in the last days but not just yet. He is only one man but there are many Arab believers who have the same opinion.

Much of what he says is based on Isaiah 19 which talks about Egypt, Assyria and of course Israel. There are of course many other prophetic passages in scripture concerning the end times especially in the book of Daniel.

But one thing is certain; the future of the Middle East is going to determine the future of the world. The covenant God made with Abram still stands. Genesis 12 v 3. ‘I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ The sequencing of events and time scale we do not know. But read it for yourself. If you read Isaiah you will see a list of the Arab nations where God will bring judgment to each one of them. Arabia, Assyria, Babylon now Iraq, Ethiopia, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel. It’s all there in black and white. Israel in particular will endure suffering prior to her deliverance by the Lord.

Egypt like many Muslim nations will disintegrate from the inside the seeds have already been sown. But the Lord will make himself known to Egypt and heal that nation.We live in a time of great economic and political unrest and upheaval.

Europe is in a mess and the majority of British politicians’ post Brexit have decided they want the nations sovereignty to be solely in the hands of Brussels despite a vote by the people wanting the very opposite.

The leaders we elect really haven’t got a clue. One day they decide to bomb Syria, then they say no. Next week they say bomb some parts of it. Change their minds, They don’t know who to bomb. Now things have gone quiet and no one knows what’s happening. The international community is afraid to act now in Yemen. Meanwhile the innocent are slaughtered.

 ‘Nation will rise against nation’. Matthew tells us in chapter 24 that the disciples came to Jesus and asked him about the signs of the end of the Age. ‘Tell us’, they ask the Lord, ‘when will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age’. They were as interested and concerned as we are today.

Jesus calmly tells them in a general way; ‘you will hear of wars and rumours of wars’. See that you are not alarmed; for this must take place; but the end is not yet.’ It’s only the start, and it has started. All the beginning of global birth pains.

For Jesus to come again which he has promised repeatedly to do there will be thousands and millions of believers which he will gather up.

Jesus is not coming to gather up a few hard-pressed believers and a non-existent church. He will come in glory to gather his people up.

There will be millions and millions of Christians across the world he will take up to heaven. Will you be one of the many? Think carefully.

Jesus in the last 14 verses of Revelation 22 tells us 3 times that he is coming soon. Mark in your bibles where he says that. V7.12,20. He doesn’t say he will be coming in another 20,000 or 50,000 years. He is coming soon. The hour is near.

People will come to faith in the middle east. Millions of them. The cradle of Christianity. St Augustine of Hippo home patch. The Christian faith where it all began with Paul’s missionary journeys will return.

You see people think they can play God. They have always thought that. The Eurocrats in Brussels shake their fists at God and all that he stands for.

Their arrogance and intransigence can be traced even from the Tower of Babel. ‘Let us make a name for ourselves’, they said as they began building in defiance of God. The Lord in his mercy dispersed the people. Later during the Exodus God called them a ‘stiff necked people. Rev Farouk tells an amazing story.

At one of his prayer groups in the church attended by around 700 people. Yes, a prayer group of 700 people in Iraq. You see what happens with corporate prayer with this number of people. The devil’s strongholds fall down.

As he was speaking a small man came into his church. (Like Zacchaeus) Little tuna he called him.

He had body guards with him who ushered him to the very front pew of the church.

There he sat with 6 bodyguards around him. After he spoke, he asked people if they would like to be prayed for.

Rev Farouk went to the man and asked him would he liked to be prayed for. He said he would. And within minutes there was a pool of tears on the floor.

After the meeting Rev was told that a man wanted to see him in his office. When he went it was the little man with his body guards. He asked the Rev did he know who he was. Rev said no. He said I am the President’s personal advisor. I advise him in all his political affairs.

He went on and told Rev about how as a child of 6 years he was made to watch his parents being hacked to death by Saddam’s guards. He was so shocked he could never cry.

Later He was thrown into prison and tortured. Again, he was unable to cry with the pain. But now God was providing a way of healing for him and for his soul. He is now a member of the church.

This is a truly amazing turnaround for any individual. But all things are possible with God. Thank goodness.

Rev Alan Wilson is a recently retired Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland. He was a former Police Officer during the ‘troubles’ before going into the ministry. He is married to Ann and they are now proud grandparents of Jacob and Cora. He enjoys keeping Alpaccas, gardening, watching football and learning how theology relates to the environment and the world at large. He and his wife spent a summer Exchange in 2018 with a Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

The photo shows, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s “The Martyrdom of St Andrew,” painted between 1675 and 1682.

History’s Long Defeat

“Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote of himself, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory” (Letters 255).

History as a long defeat – I can think of nothing that is more anti-modern than this sentiment expressed by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is a thought perfectly in line with the fathers and the whole of Classical Christian teaching. And it’s anti-modernism reveals much about the dominant heresy of our time.

We believe in progress – it is written into the DNA of the modern world. If things are bad, they’ll get better. The “long defeat” would only be a description of the road traveled by racism, bigotry, and all that ignorance breeds.

And our philosophy of progress colors everything we consider. 19th century Darwinian theory wrote a scientific version of progress into his theory of evolution. Of course, using “survival” as the mechanism of change gave cover to a number of political projects who justified their brutality and callousness as an extension of the natural order. 

The metaphor of improvement remains a dominant theme within our culture. A few years ago a survey of young Americans revealed the utterly shocking conclusion that for the first time in recorded history, the young did not expect to be as well off as their parents. It was a paradigm shift in American progressive thought. It remains to be seen how that will play out.

But Tolkien’s sentiment bears deeper examination. For not only does it reject the notion of progress, it embraces a narrative of the “long defeat.” Of course this is not a reference to steady declining standards of living, or the movement from IPhone 11 back to IPhone 4 (perish the thought!). It is rather the narrative of Scripture, first taught by the Apostles themselves, clearly reflecting a Dominical teaching:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. …Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra– what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (II Timothy 3:1-13).

This is Tolkien’s warrant for the “long defeat.”

 And the thought is not that we wake up one day and people are suddenly boasters, proud, blasphemers, etc. Rather, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

It was a common belief among the Desert Fathers that successive generations of monks would become weaker and weaker, unable to bear the great trials of their predecessors. Indeed it was said that in the end, the simple act of believing would take greater grace than all of the ascetic feats of the earliest monks.

This is not a Christian pessimism. If history tells us anything, it is that this is a very honest, even prescient reading. The evils of the 20th century, particularly those unleashed during and after World War I, are clearly among the worst ever known on the planet, and continue to be the major culprits behind all of our current struggles. That first war was not “the war to end all wars,” but the foundation of all subsequent wars. May God forgive our arrogance (“boasters, proud”…). However, the Classical Christian read on human life contains the deepest hope – set precisely in the heart of the long defeat.

It is that hope that sets the Christian gospel apart from earlier pagan historical notions. For the “long defeat” was a common assumption among the ancient peoples. The Greeks and Romans did not consider themselves to have exceeded the heroes who went before. They could model themselves on Achilles or Aeneas, but they did not expect to match their like. The Jews had no hope other than a “restoration of the Kingdom,” which was generally considered apocalyptic in nature. All of classical culture presumed a long decline.

The narrative was rewritten in the modern era – particularly during the 19th century. The Kingdom of God was transferred from apocalyptic hope (the end of the long defeat) to a material goal to be achieved in this world. This was a heresy, a radical revision of Christian thought. It became secularized and moderated into mere progress. It is worth doing a word study on the history of the word “progressive.” 

But Tolkien notes that within the long defeat, there are “glimpses of final victory.” I would go further and say that the final victory already “tabernacles” among us. It hovers within and over our world, shaping it and forming it, even within its defeat. For the nature of our salvation is a Defeat. Therefore the defeat within the world itself is not a tragic deviation from the end, but an End that was always foreseen and present within the Cross itself. And the Cross itself was present “from before the foundation of the world.”

Tolkien’s long defeat, is, as he noted, of a piece with his Catholic, Christian faith. It is thoroughly Orthodox as well. For the victory that shall be ours, is not a work in progress – it is a work in wonder.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The photo shows, “Galadriel,” by the Brothers Hildebrandt.

The Secular Quest For Eden

If you lurk around social media, particularly in conservative conversations, you will have undoubtedly seen something about recent statements on the part of a minor Democratic candidate for the Presidential nomination. I have no interest in the politics of the matter. However, the exchange goes to the heart of the modern impulse and serves as an excellent example of modernity’s dangers. The exchange:

Don Lemon: Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same sex marriage?

O’Rourke: Yes. There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights, that denies the full civil rights, of everyone in America. So as president, we’re going to make that a priority. And we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.

“We are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.” Of course, removing the tax-exempt status of selected religious institutions will do nothing to “stop” them from believing (and practicing) what they believe – not if their faith is worth its salt. Indeed, the comment might have been an ill-thought attempt to simply say that “we will punish those who deny these ‘rights’.” Religious people have a long history of being punished for their beliefs and a dogged propensity to dig in their heels when persecuted.

Modernity has an impulse to power that is, apparently, hard to resist. In the drive to build a better world (regardless of its definition) there is a deeply hidden belief and assumption that the world doesn’t want to be a better place. Thus, if the world is left to its own inclinations, it will lapse into a worse place. Modern thought is of a piece with the American frontier experience. The world is a wilderness in which civilization can only carve out spaces. The jungle always threatens to return and must be kept at bay – by force, if necessary.

It was a very interesting way to treat the buffalo, the trees, and whole tribes of people. Of course, it was (and is) a philosophy of devastation. It is also the most patently dangerous set of notions ever to have stalked the planet.

Technology has always been part of human existence. The first sticks were technologically improved by sharpening and we have never stopped. Modernity is the first philosophy, however, to imagine technology as the means of remaking the planet. Indeed, in a manner of speaking, technology itself has become the new planet, inhabited by minds expressed as 1’s and 0’s. In a world of artificiality, artificial intelligence, or intelligence that has been rendered artificial, is “naturally” at home. Of course, it is less than human, as well.

Human life is a traditioned event: it is handed down to us. Everything about us, down to the most microscopic level of our existence, is given to us from those who have gone before. We do not start with a blank slate, nor is the world around us a blank slate. The madness of those who are driven by the modern impulse is their refusal to acknowledge and respect what has gone before. To be the smartest generation is an arrogance unknown until rather recently in human time. Evidence continues to mount that such arrogance ill-serves our civilization.

The Christian faith, when rightly taught, has no agenda for the improvement of the world. It has the commandments of Christ, which, when practiced, certainly treat the world with kindness, mercy, love, and generosity. However, the Church has no mandate to exercise the sort of control that would nurture the modern impulse. The moments in history in which Christianity and empire have seemed to coalesce, represent temptations that have betrayed the faith as often as they have seemed to foster it. The naïve sentiment that such times were an ideal, much less, a goal, are maintained only through a refusal to look carefully at the facts.

The commandments of Christ point us towards His Father as the model for our life. He is “kind to the evil and the ungrateful.” He “makes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” If “making the world a better place” were the job description for the Father, then we would justly wonder why He fails to do so.

The work of Divine Love is a “mystery hidden from all the ages.” It is a “treasure buried in a field,” and “like a lost coin.” The death and resurrection of Christ point towards a triumphant love of God that, ironically, succeeds in failure. The modern impulse is a script for Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor

who suggests that human beings can do a far better job than God with the needs of the world.

The philosophy of control and the management of creation is deeply alluring for the simple reason that it seems to be the sort of thing that should work well and to our benefit. Indeed, there are any number of examples where such control has done quite well. The sheer power of technology creates a siren call to wield it – like a ring of power. Beto’s words, however, reveal the corruption of such power. “We are going to stop those…” Such words are not restricted to either the Left or Right: they are the voice of modernity.

The great struggles of modernity, culture wars, and ideological battles, have all been fought on the field of management. Each election cycle comes as an effort to seize power, only to find that the battle continues. Ultimately, only if the opposition is thoroughly vanquished (“we will stop them”) will the battle appear to end. The great masters of this application of power understood that weakness and gentleness with regard to power are useless. Only the ruthless win in the game of modernity. Thus, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, and their ilk, all enjoyed their moments of apparent victory. And yet, each of them is dead and their projects returned to dust.

In a quote that should be etched in stone and memorized by all, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who had lived in the belly of modernity’s darkest beast, offered his wise observation: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.”

There is “one small bridgehead” in the heart of every human being. That is perhaps the most hopeful statement of the 20th century. In point of fact, most human beings are not engaged in world improvement, or stopping the “improvements” of their adversaries. Most people live, work, eat, love, and die, within the relatively small margins of their existence. If the masses rush to the barricades, the madness overwhelms the world for a time. And yet, it always subsides.

There are, I think, limits set within the world that tend to protect us from our best intentions. First, we live for a limited time. Second, people would rather work, eat, love, and die rather than stand at the barricades. I have said quite frequently that in an argument with gravity, gravity will almost always win. There is a “gravity” in the world that tends towards stability rather than chaos, or that tends towards chaos when the gravity is of an unnatural form.

The New Testament speaks of two mysteries. There is the “mystery hidden from all the ages” that surrounds God’s work of gathering all things together into Christ. There is also the “mystery of iniquity” that is not so well-defined. We are told, however, that it has its own time and its own limit. One small bridgehead of good always remains.

The nations rage and imagine themselves to be the arbiters of history. The mystery of the Kingdom continues to work its way within the bridgeheads of the heart. That the world still stands is testimony to the vanity of the nations and the steadfast commitment of God to our salvation.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The photo shows a painting by Zdzisław Beksiński.