The Struggle Against The Normal Life

Within the Christianity of our time, the great spiritual conflict, unknown to almost all, is between a naturalistic/secular world of modernity and the sacramental world of classical Christianity. The first presumes that a literal take on the world is the most accurate. It tends to assume a closed system of cause and effect, ultimately explainable through science and manageable through technology. Modern Christians, quite innocently, accept this account of the world with the proviso that there is also a God who, on occasion, intervenes within this closed order. The naturalist unbeliever says, “Prove it.”

The sacramental world of classical Christianity speaks a wholly different language. It presumes that the world as we see it is an expression of a greater reality that is unseen. It presumes that everything is a continuing gift and a means of communion with the good God who created it. The meaning and purpose of things is found in that which is not seen, apart from which we can only reach false conclusions. The essential message of Christ, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” is a proclamation of the primacy of this unseen world and its coming reign in the restoration of all things (apokatastasis, cf. Acts 3:21).

The assumptions of these two worldviews could hardly be more contradictory. The naturalistic/secular model has the advantage of sharing a worldview with contemporary culture. As such, it forms part of what most people would perceive as “common sense” and “normal.” Indeed, the larger portion of Christian believers within that model have no idea that any other Christian worldview exists.

The classical/sacramental worldview was the only Christian worldview for most of the centuries prior to the Reformation. Even then, that worldview was only displaced through revolution and state sponsorship. Nonetheless, the sacramental understanding continues within the life of the Orthodox Church, as well as many segments of Catholicism. Its abiding presence in the Scriptures guarantees that at least a suspicion of “something else” will haunt some modern Christian minds.

An assumption of the secular/naturalist worldview is that information itself is “objective” in character: it is equally accessible to everyone. The classical worldview assumes something quite different. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Christ says, “for they shall see God.” The Kingdom of God is not an inert object that yields itself to public examination. The knowledge of God and of all spiritual things requires a different mode of seeing and understanding. St. Paul says it this way:

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Co 2:14)

This understanding disturbs the sensibilities of many contemporary Christians. Some go so far as to suggest that it is “gnostic” (by this they mean that the very notion of spiritual knowledge that is less than democratic is suspect). Sola Scriptura is a modern concept that posits the Scriptures as subject to objective interpretation. The Scriptures thus belong to the world of public, democratic  debate, whose meaning belongs within the marketplace of opinion. The Scriptures are “my Bible.”

The classical model is, in fact, the teaching found in the Scriptures. It utterly rejects the notion of spiritual knowledge belonging to the same category as the naturalistic/secular world. It clearly understands that the truth of things is perceived only through the heart (nous) and that an inward change is required. It is impossible to encounter the truth and remain unchanged.

The classical model, particularly as found within Orthodoxy, demands repentance and asceticism as a normative part of the spiritual life. These actions do not earn a reward, but are an inherent part of the cleansing of the heart and the possibility of perceiving the truth.

The rationalization (secular/rationalist) of the gospel has also given rise to modern “evangelism.” If no particular change is required in a human being in order to perceive the truth of the gospel, then rational argument and demonstration becomes the order of the day. Indeed, modern evangelism is largely indistinguishable from modern marketing. They were born from the same American social movements.

The classical model tends to be slower in its communication, for what is being transmitted is the fullness of the tradition and the transformation of each human life. Evangelism, in this context, has little to no relationship with marketing. The primary form for the transmission of the gospel is the community of the Church. The Christian faith, in its fullness, is properly only seen in an embodied community of believers living in sacramental union with God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. In the early Church, the catechumenate generally lasted for as much as three years. The formation that took place was seen as an essential preparation for the Christian life. “Making a decision” was almost beside the point.

The struggle between classical/sacramental Christianity and modernity (including its various Christianities) is not a battle over information. The heart of the struggle is for sacramental Christianity to simply remain faithful to what it is. That struggle is significant, simply for the fact that it takes place within a dominant culture that is largely its antithesis.

A complicating factor in this struggle is the fact that the dominant culture (naturalistic/secular) has taken up traditional Christian vocabulary and changed its meaning. This creates a situation in which classical Christianity is in constant need of defining and understanding its own language in contradistinction to the prevailing cultural mind. The most simple terms, “faith, belief, Baptism, Communion, icon, forgiveness, sin, repentance,” are among those things that have to be consistently re-defined. Every conversation outside a certain circle requires this effort, and, even within that circle, things are not always easy.

Such an effort might seem exhausting. The only position of relaxation within the culture is the effortless agreement with what the prevailing permutations tell us on any given day. Human instinct tends towards the effortless life – and the secular mentality constantly reassures us that only the effortless life is normal. Indeed, “normal, ordinary, common,” and such terms, are all words invented by modernity as a self-description. Such concepts are utterly absent from the world of Scripture. Oddly, no one lived a “normal” life until relatively recently.

That which is “normal” is nothing of the sort. It is the purblind self-assurance that all is well when nothing is well.

God have mercy on us.

Source: Glory To God For All Things

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    1. The author seems to not understand that there is ONLY ONE Christianity, and it is what he called “classic”. The conflict exists because only one is the true Christianity. Religions cannot be reformed, when they are reformed they become terrorism, not religions. What he called “modern Christianity” is just terrorism, Satanism, like ISIS and other forms of pervert Islam. Evangelic Christians are an example of satanism.

    2. salerno

      For this reason the protestant evangelic are not allowed in Russia.

    3. Informative article

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      Football Club Liverpool July 28th will play the third match in a row in his field. This time Napoli will play the role of an opponent, so at 19:00 Moscow time the hosts will need the support of the fans. This year, the teams have not yet met on the football field, but last season they played twice, and both fights ended in a draw with a score of 0-0, so the fans hope that this meeting will be more interesting.

    4. “secular” and “naturalistic” are not synonyms. “secular” simply means, opposition to religious faith. While naturalism affirms that reality is governed by natural laws (not the whims of a supernatural deity or theity who allegedly exists outside of existence).

      The theory that every person is equally able (in your example, to understand reality) is not supported by a naturalistic view. Because the empirical evidence points in another direction (that people are not genetically equal or even equivalent).

      Christianity originated as a Hellenized Judaism. This fusionism continued after Christianity was introduced into the west. Restoring the western elements while removing the barnacles of faith should be the main goal of western civilization.

    5. In China, Fake Huawei Smartphone Seized and Workshop Arrested. Chinese police seized a shipment of fake Huawei phones. Over 600 fakes have been confiscated.

      In China, Fake Huawei Smartphone Seized and Workshop Arrested

      In China, seized a large shipment of counterfeit smartphones Huawei
      Telecom giant Huawei is considered the undisputed leader in the PRC smartphone market. Huawei devices are in high demand in China. Due to this, the vendor feels in the market of the Middle Kingdom rather confidently.

    6. Secular is different from naturalistic, but secular does not mean necessarily opposition to religious faith. In fact the secular Christians still have some faith. Secular means laicism and the term was used by the latins in opposition to the cleric, the regular Christians. Today the secularization has reached often a point of creating a false religion like the protestant.

    7. Secular is different from naturalistic. Anyway secular does not mean necessarily opposition to religious faith. In fact secular Christians have some faith. Secular was used by the latins as sinonimus for Laicism, in opposition to the cleric, the regular Christians. Today secularization has produced false religions like the evangelists.

    8. “Laicism” means, secular in the political realm. That might be carried too far, as in the French Revolution, which executed priests and confiscated church property. But normally that is a good sense of the term.

      There is another sense of “secular” which is in the realm of philosophy. A secular philosophy would be, opposition to religious faith. However that sense has a negative aspect, as if philosophy should be defined as opposition to religion. A philosopher defining himself as “secular” would be like an astronomer defining himself as anti-astrology. Rather, we should affirm the positive values of humanism, instead of dwelling on Dark Ages thinking.

      Allow me to elaborate on Salerno’s point. All too many who identify as “secular” are psychologically motivated to reject the particular religion of their up-bringing, not opposition to all faith. Many have adopted non-religious or pseudo-religious forms of faith, such as Marxism. The two forms of faith have similar psychological foundations, for example,. Stalin trained to be a priest before he became a Marxist.

    9. Secular is a term which has nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with philosophy. There is the literal sense which is TIME, a period of time and there is the ecclesiastical sense which means profane, laicism, mundane. Laicism is a derogatory term, meaning vulgar, in opposition to clerics, the educated elite.
      Also, philosophy is not necessarily in opposition to religious faith, and no philosopher ever needed to define himself secular. San Tommaso d’Aquino was a Christian philosopher living in the golden Middle Age, expression of a civilization clearly superior to the humanism. In fact humanism is the evil who gave birth to all false religions and bad ideologies like marxism.

    10. There is no any sense of secular in philosophy. Philosophers never needed to define themselves or their ideas as secular. Secular has a literal sense meaning simply “time” and another sense which is ecclesiastical, not political neither philosophical and it is a derogatory term meaning laicism, mundane, the profane world, in opposition to the eternal spiritual world. Also not all philosophers are in opposition to religious faith, there are christians philosophers since the great San Tommaso d’Aquino who lived in the golden Middle Age. Humanism is a decadence paving the way to bad ideologies like marxism , fascism and racism.

      • Merriam-Webster Definition of laicism
        : a political system characterized by the exclusion of ecclesiastical control and influence

        Merriam-Webster Definition of secular
        1a : of or relating to the worldly or temporal
        secular concerns
        b : not overtly or specifically religious
        secular music
        c : not ecclesiastical or clerical
        secular courts
        secular landowners

        From Wikipedia:
        Definition of laicism
        : a political system characterized by the exclusion of ecclesiastical control and influence

        From Wikipedia:
        “Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition.”

        [Kevin] Humanism affirms the positive values of humans, defined as rational animals, and includes all the things that make us distinctly human (e.g. science, art, technology, economics, etc.). While secularism is merely negative in opposition to religion. A humanist would probably oppose the faith process as an element in religion, or elsewhere; while a secularist could be an irrational savage who opposes religion. One upholds the good, while the other is merely nihilstic.

        Since Marxism is irrational and unreasonable in thought and deed, it is a form of faith that does not affirm positive human values. Fascism is a mixed economy with undesirable features. Humanism might be considered to have a racist element, if by that term is meant the human race; if we discovered other races that are also rational animals, that would have to be reconsidered. The faith element is a process in the human brain, and can be expressed in a number of different ways, whether in religion, politics, or social relations. The faith process has limited survival value, which evolution has developed to cover situations calling for immediate confident action when there is not sufficient time to thoroughly observe and analyze.

        The Renaissance was much better than the middle ages. The Renaissance restored classical western civilization that was distorted by the fusion with middle eastern mysticism.

    11. There are many confusions in your post and the definitions from the sources you quoted. It is true that today there is not direct control of the political systems from the ecclestiatical world, the sacred Roman Empire ended centuries ago, but there is still influence, and these definition of laicism are missing the true meaning of the word, which is an absolutely derogatory term to indicate the ignorant people. Democracies are evil, because the ignorant people are the majority and they vote for ignorant, stupid and corrupt individuals. Theocracies are better as long as they are ruled by elite with intellectual capabilities and culture.
      Marxism is not irrational, on the contrary it is very rational, Marx was a philosopher, moving from Hegel idealism to materialism, but materialism is even more rational than idealism, the same rationality is in the capitalism, the opposite of Marxism, because both are founded on the same materialistic interests (or supposed interests) of different kind of people. Renaissance was possible because of the Middle age, it was not a restauration, but along with the progress in science something was lost. Renaissance was possible because of the intervention of the islamic culture, Averroe’ and Avicenna thanks to them we recovered the knowledge of the greek culture. Unfortunately the mysticism is a peculiarity of the humanism and of the modern world, not a peculiarity of the Golden Middle Age. When I talk in positive terms of the Middle Age I refer to culture, even then there was some disorder and violence, but less than in the following centiries and less then today.

      • In the ancient west, paganism was popular among the uneducated masses; but those who had access to hand-printed books and could read them, had the opportunity to know ancient humanism. When Constantinople was conquered by Jihadists, many Christian scholars were enslaved to reproduce the books or fled to the west. The good aspects of Islamic culture are mostly derivative, even “Arabic” numerals were an Indian invention.

        The Latins didn’t have a good accounting system because their number system was combersome. Their custom of slavery hindered industrialization. The middle ages were darkest when most religious, as a result many free thinkers like Galileo were persecuted. Fortunately Christians didn’t entirely abandon classical humanism and restored it during the Renaissance. The restoration and improvement of civilization cointinues to this day, despite faith-inspired setbacks.

        Any faith-based system, whether marxist or religious, provides justification for force-initiation. Idealists like Decartes or Plato were rational, but reason includes both logic and observation. What you call the material world, is the world of phenomena that can be observed. Reality is not divided between the ideal realm of perfect circles and the “material” realm that we perceive.

        Existence has more than matter, there is also energy. Hence the “material” world is simply an aspect of a unitary existence. We assign meaning to words by pointing at objects and calling them by name, and upon this foundation we build great structures through logic. We cannot meaningfully discuss anything except through natural language. Faith is a process, not any particular conclusion. Faith is not observation-based and any resemblance between a faith-based map, and reality, is mere coincidence.

        Theocracy must be destroyed, starting with the worst offender, which is political Islam. In the west, there is a separation between church (or religious establishment) and state. That is because western culture is a fusion between reason and faith. When Christians burn heretics, as they did centuries ago, they become no better than head-chopping Jihadists.

        The path to tomorrow is illuminated by reason. Faith should be reserved for rare circumstances, and should not be the basis for any political system.

    12. salerno

      To be more clear the classical western civilization does not exist, never existed, it is a fraud. The Greek-Roman civilization is just a derivation from the east, the India civilization, they had also religions, with the same gods and goddes (Bacchus-Dionysus was Shiva, Apollo was Visnu and so on) and they prayed. The only western civilization we know is totally lost, and it is the Celtic civilization. It was more nordic than western, but it was present in England.

    13. You are still claiming about a supposed ancient humanism which never existed. The ancient world was teocratic, Roman civilization was theocratic as the emperor had both spiritual and material power, he had the attribute of “Pontifex”. Even the Greek civilization was not humanist, as they had faith in many gods and the power used a lot of energy and resourses to build temples. So humanism never existed before Galileo, who was hit by the Christians, not by the Muslims who had an open mind to science. To be more clear the Muslims were the catalyst to the birth of modern science. Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo, Dante Alighieri and Newton were influenced by islamic culture. So it is wrong what you said that good aspects of Islamic culture were derivative, it is the opposite. Muslims found a way to use numbers using indian letters, but those were not numbers, they were indian letters. So Muslims were the first to use numbers. Muslims were the initiator of Alchemy, they were the first to make and use soap, the invented the chemistry, thank to the Quran. They were the inventor of modern irrigation which improved the life of people in India and in the West. Muslims were the first to put in place modern lows in case of war, which are adopted in the Geneve convention, thanks to the theocracy and to the Quran. Humanism must be destroyed, because the humanism gave birth to terrorism, to Marxism, and to genocides.

    14. “Existence is more than matter, there is also energy” Wrong. Energy and matter are the same thing, as they can be converted each other. But reality is a lot more than energy and matter, reality includes also Possibilities, the non manifested world. You confuse reality with manifestation. Manifestation is a small part of reality.

    15. Jihadist is a term used to identify different kind of people. Jihad means effort and even war, so everybody going to war is a jihadist, even if he is a Buddhist or a christian or a atheist. When Talibans were attacked they had the right to defend themselves, so even if they , as wahabites, are not orthodox muslims they did the right thing to kill the intruders, and after 18 years they are still killing them. The term political Islam is wrong. It is used to address Muslims Brotherwood, but they are not more political than wahabites or the Saudi, may be less, in many cases. Additionally they are not monolitics, there are different forms. Recently even Erdogan is supporting them. who is running not a theocracy, but a nationalistic government with islamic inspiration like many government in the West have a christian inspiration, in many cases it is fake, in some it is real.

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