June 26, 2008

Thinking of you, and all that was, and all
That might have been and now can never be,
I feel your honour'd excellence, and see
Myself unworthy of the happier call:
For woe is me who walk so apt to fall,
So apt to shrink afraid, so apt to flee,
Apt to lie down and die (ah, woe is me!)
Faithless and hopeless turning to the wall.
And yet not hopeless quite nor faithless quite,
Because not loveless; love may toil all night,
Of day, but then wield power with God and man:--
So take I heart of grace as best I can,
Ready to spend and be spent for your sake.

- Christina Rossetti

June 19, 2008

Death in Park City

My Dagon has fallen,
fissured face pressed to the ground,
the remains of a religion in ruins
at my feet.
On the curve of the mountain, in
the space between two aspens,
I bury him.

Something better has come.

June 8, 2008

Soon I'll grow up, and I won't even flinch at your name.

June 1, 2008

A Consumer's Guide to the Apocalypse

I signed up for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's (ISI) Reader's Club a few weeks ago, and among the books I received was one intriguingly titled A Consumer's Guide to the Apocalypse: Why there is no cultural war in America and why we will perish nonetheless by an Eduardo Velasquez. ISI is a bastion of conservative intellectualism -- or, as they like to put it, "old-fashioned liberalism" -- as well as being primarily Catholic in its authorship. They have many, many interesting books and publications, and I finally broke down and joined.

Knowing ISI's doctrinal bias has kept me on the lookout for anything distinctly Catholic that might affect the analysis, although I am of the mind that Catholics can be just as apt as Protestants with regard to cultural criticism. Reading A Consumer's Guide to the Apocalypse assured me that I was right to be wary on this account.

The book's premise is that the "apocalyptic angst" seen in popular culture and the seeming war between fundamentalist religion and dogmatic science are the result of the particularly incoherent brand of irrationality stemming from a "tenacious, if sometimes unacknowledged, commitment to the basic tenets of the Enlightenment." Which thesis didn't sound particularly new to my ears, though worth exploring, but it was the author's elaboration on this that was truely surprising.

In the book's introduction, Velasquez asserts that "Enlightenment Protestantism severs the connection between reason and the soul" via its emphasis on "access to a personal God through faith alone." He sees the Reformation as having "razed the meeting place for reason and faith" and suggests (subtly) a return to Catholic objectivity in order to reconcile religion and rationality. Essentially, he implies that it is the Protestant Reformation that has caused all the trouble, not man's unwonted pride in his ability to reason.

Although I agree that the "subjectivity" of faith (I speak as a man) can lead to the errors Velasquez points out, Protestantism -- or the Bible, for that matter -- doesn't preach that we can only know and access God via our subjective experience. Romans 1 says that God is objectively known and seen in creation, so that all mankind is without excuse. "I believe" is an assent of the mind as well as the heart.

The true error is putting God at odds with man's reason simply because He cannot be explained by it. Our inability to "prove" God or reason to God is merely evidence of the limits of reason rather than an acknowledgment of the irrationality of belief. When the Enlightenment gave rationality preeminence as a worldview, some Christians (notably Descartes) felt impelled to recast their faith in that framework, to use reason to access and define God. Unable to do so satisfactorily, their only retreat was to the subjective experience of faith. The either-or fallacy that God must be able to be reached by reason or is irrational, not the implications of sola fide, is the root of much of modern irrationality, both in the church and out.

Although God cannot be conscribed within the circle of rationality, He is nevertheless the God of reason, and reason can certainly be used for His glory and for the good of His kingdom. But, we should beware of trying to bring He whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts down to our level. As Van Til has said: "It is Christ as God who speaks in the Bible. Therefore the Bible does not appeal to human reason as ultimate in order to justify what it says. It comes to the human being with absolute authority. Its claim is that human reason must itself be taken in the sense in which Scripture takes it, namely, as created by God and as therefore properly subject to the authority of God."