Sacramental Present Truths

This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Secularization of Christianity Part XIII - Euhemerism vs. Skepticism, and the Bultmann/Heidegger Connection

Beginning the next section of this in-depth study, I wanted to first pick up where we left off by adding another discussion.  The "demythologizing" tendencies of Bultmann, van Buren, and others is not to be confused with another aspect of explaining actual myths called euhemerism.  Euhemerism is a valid position which asserts that at the basis of any legend or myth, there is a core of truth that inspired the myth, and therefore a myth or legend has at its core a historical basis.  Many of the earliest Fathers of the Church embraced a Christian euhemerist view in regard to the pagan religions that were abundant in their worlds, and to be honest I embrace such a view as well.  The difference, however, between a Christian euhemerist and someone like Bultmann who wants to "demythologize" the reality of Jesus and other supernatural aspects of Scripture and Christian faith is a simple one - a Christian euhemerist still upholds the reality of the supernatural, but also balances a belief in that reality with human reason as well, as God intended human reason to be used.  So, for example, whereas a person like Bultmann would outright reject the idea that Zeus, for instance, existed, the Christian euhemerist would see it from a different angle - many Church Fathers and other writers, for instance, believed that Zeus was an actual human ruler who over time became deified and his legacy embellished with legend; the "Zeus" then that was worshipped would have then been seen more as a demonic manifestation.  The same with Hercules - a real person, but perhaps embellished by legend over time.  However, to be fair, even the "embellishments" may have been based on actual things, and using "mythical" creatures, let's discuss that for a moment.

In the legends and mythology surrounding Hercules, one that really stands out and got my attention was his capture of the Erymanthian boar.  This creature was said to be immense and also very dangerous, and Hercules' capture of it was called his "Fourth Labor."  From the outset, this looks like either an exaggeration or another mythic creature that never existed until one starts to look at fossil records and other things.  Now, for the skeptic like Bultmann, this is an impossibility due to the fact that many "demythologizers" of Christian faith are often theistic evolutionists at best, and thus they believe a greater mythology of secularism which presupposes that the earth is billions of years old, and that life occurred spontaneously and "evolved."  Interestingly, there is a prehistoric creature called an Entelodont that actually fits the description in the Hercules legend, but for an evolutionist this is impossible because to them 1) Hercules was a mythical figure, and 2) the Entelodont in evolutionary timelines existed over 25 million years ago.  Really??   If one looks at this from the Biblical view of creation though, these creatures lived and existed with humans, and thus a confrontation between a human and a beast like this would not have been an impossibility. The Christian euhemerist then would see the Erymanthian boar as possibly being an Entelodont, and that actually fits.

The Entelodont, a hypothetical possibility of the Erymanthian boar of myth

Another legend similar to this is in Arabic folklore, and entails a huge and onery bird called a "Roc."  For the evolutionist, this is an impossibility for two reasons:  1) giant birds would have predated humans by millions of years, and 2) the only giant bird of significant size to be a threat to humans was a large eagle that lived in New Zealand up until the year 1400, and New Zealand is of course thousands of miles away from the Middle East.  However, for a Christian euhemerist who would uphold Biblical creation, it is not a problem at all, as these "prehistoric beasts" interacted with humans and therefore man would have encountered them.  This means then that the two greatest possibilities for the "roc" of Arabic folklore could have either been the terror bird (which was flightless) or the Haast's eagle, which lived in New Zealand up until about 600 years ago and was the largest predatory flying bird to ever live.  Depending on which interpretation of the folklore one embraces, it could be either.

The terror bird

Haast's eagle attacking another giant flightless New Zealand bird, the moa

Another more recent controversial legend has a number of eyewitnesses that swear to its existence, and of course that is the Sasquatch/Bigfoot creature.  Every year, hundreds of people report seeing this creature in various parts of the world, and with that many sightings, it is not easy to dismiss its possibility.  Human reason, as seen through the eyes of the Christian euhemerist, warrants also looking at the evidence, and as it turns out, there did exist a giant ape called Gigantopithecus which almost lines up exactly with what people claiming "Bigfoot" sightings have reported.  Now, according to the secularist/evolutionist, this is an impossibility because Gigantopithecus supposedly died out around anywhere from 3 million years ago to several hundred thousand years, yet if one does accept the Bible as true, and the Biblical account of creation, then the possibility of this creature being known to exist by humans is very real, and if one accepts recent creation, it means there may be a population of them still alive.  Science has uncovered and verified stranger things - the mountain gorilla, the platypus, etc.  If one takes this to logical conclusions then, it means the mystery of "Bigfoot" may be right in front of our noses - "Bigfoot" is either a surviving population of Gigantopithecus, or at least a close relative.  If that be the case, then one day someone may actually find one, and then what was dismissed as legend may in fact turn out to be as real as raccoons and grizzly bears.

Re-creation of a Gigantopithecus specimen in a museum

Another example that actually may be even more relevant but is often dismissed as mere legend is the dragon.  Prior to the 1800's, fossils that were found of giant reptiles were actually thought to have been "dragons," and that is what they were known as until the mid-1800's, when a new term for these fossilized remains was coined - dinosaur.  Like the other creatures mentioned above, dinosaurs are supposed to have existed hundreds of millions of years before mankind came into existence, yet almost every culture has these dragon legends, and even more so in some parts of the world there are sculptures and carvings depicting these creatures as perfect living specimens.  Now, we often have an arrogance that we, as "modern man," are more "sophisticated" and "advanced" than our ancient counterparts (the arrogance of secularism never ceases to amaze me!).  But, "sophisticated" 21st-century man still has yet to theorize as to how an ancient culture in southeast Asia could carve the likeness of a perfect stegosaurus on a temple, utilizing just a few bones??  That discussion is warranted at another time, but it just proves that "demythologizing" things to make them fit with our own narrow vision may not always work, and in the case of creatures like these, it definitely doesn't.

T-Rex - the original "dragon?" 

Other things that are confined to the world of mythology - for example, the existence of Atlantis - are also equally worth exploring, and indeed a man named Richard Freund has.  In his 2012 book Digging Through History (Lanham, MD:  Rowman and Littlefield) Freund proposes that the actual site of what legends called "Atlantis" may in fact be connected with the Biblical Tarshish, and the location possibility may be in southwestern Spain.  The ruins of a city there match almost perfectly Plato's description of Atlantis, and therefore maybe such a place existed.  If this could be further developed, it means that history may require a re-write.  History, like science, has been the realm of the secularist for so long that too many people believe a somewhat constricted view of history that would dismiss anything empirical, but as we have seen not everything is necessarily strictly empirical.  The problem is, however, the same forces that secularized history and science are now going after theology and the Bible, and that is why a study like this is necessary, and at this point we pick up with Mascall.

Beginning on page 54, Mascall draws a connection between Bultmann's theology and the existentialism of Martin Heidegger, and at this point Heidegger warrants discussion.  Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was a German existentialist philosopher who also was unfortunately an unrepentant Nazi - from May 1, 1933, Heidegger was a member of the Nazi Party, and although he was a protege of German-Jewish phenomenological philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) - Husserl also was a leading influence on St. Edith Stein as well - he was also an opportunist and when the Nazis began to systematically discriminate against Jews, Heidegger eagerly supported Husserl's eviction from the University of Freiburg and his own acquisition of the position Husserl was forced to vacate.  This was a paradox for Bultmann unfortunately, who on one hand has a fanatical commitment to Heideggerian existentialism but at the same time was on the opposite political spectrum - to note, Bultmann was a member of the "Confessing Church," along with his contemporaries Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and opposed the Nazis (a commendable position to Bultmann's credit), yet Heidegger was an all-out Nazi.  As Mascall notes, Heideggerian existentialism was so integral to Bultmann's whole system that he had more fervor than even the most devout Dominican monk ever had to St. Thomas Aquinas!  However, this led to some conflicting paradoxes with Bultmann, as we will now see.

Nazi existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)

Due to Bultmann's trying to hold to both a more atheistic Heideggerian existentialism and his Christian faith, it led to him trying to maintain two imcompatible theses, as Mascall notes that Ogden states on page 55:

1.  The existentialist thesis that Christian faith is to be interpreted as man's justification for authentic historical existence based on appropriate philosophical analysis (the Christian faith as a "coping mechanism," in other words, but not real or truthful)

2. The Christian faith, as properly upheld, as a "possibility in fact" due to the historicity of Jesus.

So, to justify himself, Ogden (previously discussed) reworks these theses as this:

1.  Christian faith is to be interpreted as man's possibility of authentic existence (it is a comfort and encouragement, as well as a moral impetus, in other words)

2.  The unconditional gift and demand of God's love is manifested in the historicity of Jesus Christ, but omitting the historical validity of such.

Ogden's restatement of these incompatible theses then means that the Christian faith is defined in Heideggerian terms as simply a "coping mechanism" that motivates authentic existence, and although Jesus is a historical person for Ogden (and Bultmann), it doesn't mean the faith has any substance.  Jesus, therefore, is only an "example" of motivation of authentic existence that can also occur without His involvement.  Let's now discuss that.

Historical and consistent Magisterial teaching affirms that Jesus is the focus and central fact of the faith (known in catechetics as "Christocentricity") and as Josef Jungmann explained in his 1936 text The Good News and the Proclamation of Our Faith, Jesus is at the center of all catechesis, and every doctrine we hold to as Christians radiates from him like spokes radiate from the hub of a bicycle wheel.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us in regard to such ideology as Heideggerian existentialist thought (although the passage I am referencing addresses atheism specifically), these positions are often based on a false conception of human autonomy which are exaggerated to the point of refusing any dependence on God (CCC 2126).   It is also true of the agnostic, which in reality many of these liberal theologians such as Ogden and Bultmann were, in that it can sometimes include a certain search for God, but also equally expresses indifferentism, a flight from the ultimate question of existence, and a sluggish moral conscience - in other words, as the Catechism notes, agnosticism is practical atheism (CCC 2128).   Contrary to this Heideggerian mantra of Odgen's that Jesus is only an "example" of motivation of authentic existence, the Church affirms that man is dependent on his Creator and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom (CCC 396), and He upholds them (meaning the human race in general) and sustains them in being, enables proper action, and brings them to their final end (CCC 301).  All law, therefore, finds its first and ultimate truth in eternal law (CCC 1951) which in turn has its source in the Creator and finds its fullness and unity in the person of Christ (CCC 1953).   Faith, for the Christian, is not in a system or an institution, but is in a Person, and in that Person (Jesus Christ) is the center of our whole existence and not a mere "possibility of authentic existence."  Scripture reminds us of this fact too, as in Acts 17:28 we are reminded that in Him we live, move, and have our being.  Therefore, creation cannot exist without its Creator, and the Creator is a Trinity of three distinct Persons, of which one is Jesus Christ, God the Son.  If anyone denies that, then their Christianity bears a re-evaluation.  

Even among liberal agnostic theologians like van Buren, there are differences of opinion, as he finds five objections to Ogden's position that Mascall notes on pages 56-57:

1) Bultmann's and Ogden's indulgence in "experienced non-objective reality" is meaningless, according to van Buren, when judged by strictly empirical criteria.  The definition of what or who "God" is comes into focus for van Buren on this one.

2) Analogical speech about God is meaningless for van Buren, but any speech about God would have to be analogical (?).  For van Buren, both Bultmann and Ogden are using words without meaning, in other words.

3) There is a discrepancy for van Buren regarding the distinct forms of statements - objective/informative and existential - which call for self-understanding of the hearer.  

4) Van Buren objects to Ogden's displacement of the historical event of Jesus of Nazareth from the existential response of the believer.  The Cross, for instance, is for van Buren a mere execution device devoid of present application - it is only a past event for him and not a present reality.  

5)  The Resurrection event is ignored by Ogden and dismissed as merely a "way the primitive Church responded to the ministry of the historical Jesus."  Van Buren (surprisingly!) correctly notes that this divorcing of the Easter event from faith is tantamount to dispensing with Jesus Himself.

Van Buren is by no means an orthodox, devout believer (earlier discussions of him establish that!) but at least he has the sense to know what Ogden denies - Easter, the Resurrection, and the personage of Jesus do have a pivotal role in the faith of Christianity.    However, all of these characters make a point of reducing the greatest event of salvation history to a mere abstraction - all of them would actually deny the reality of the Resurrection, although at least van Buren acknowledges its importance for Christian belief.  And, on page 60, Mascall identifies the problem with their theses - there is a choice between "God" and the man Jesus Christ, and the secular empirically-minded "believer" can only choose the latter because of tangible historical fact of Jesus's existence.   This then means, as Mascall notes on page 61, that if modern man is this Heideggerian secularist that van Buren proports him to be, then those Heideggerian tendencies revolt against both the particularity of a religion centered on Christ as well as the secularist revolt against the transcendentalism of a religion centered upon God.  So, ever the linguistic empiricist, van Buren makes a complete reconstruction of the whole thing and thus "adjusts" his outlook on the nature of Christianity to conform with the secularist mindset he has.  And, that brings us back to the discussion at the beginning of this segment. 

The major problem with "modern man," in particular those of us who exist in the 19th-21st centuries, is that we presume with all of our "technological advances" to know more than the ancients did.  We fancy ourselves more "enlightened," intelligent, and advanced than our "primitive" forebears, but is that really the case.  Consider this for a minute from a euhemerist perspective - while it is true that many accounts of persons and creatures of legend are often ornamented and embellished, it is equally true that maybe that flowery language of embellishment is their way of expressing something that we may see now.  This then means the "dragon" of legend becomes the "dinosaur" of fact, and that the demigod Zeus of Greek mythology was a deified ancient king who maybe was popular with his people.   Only in the fact of the life of Christ do we not see any real embellishment (aside from some pseudopigraphal literature that is extra-Biblical and also rejected as such by the Church), but unfortunately empiricism has become a religion in itself and seeks to deny not only the supernatural, but also any natural phenomena that upsets the status quo - it is, after all, real work to rewrite history books and science texts in order to accommodate new evidence, and people would lose credibility and money if that happened, right?   And, since the empirical secularist is a "believe it only if I can see it" person, it means that anything dealing with faith, the supernatural, and the metaphysical are irrelevant and not worth any consideration.   That means then that salvation, belief in a God who is the originator of the universe, and other matters of faith (including the possibility that dinosaurs may have actually walked with man!) cannot be possible because they cannot be seen.  Yet, these same people will say we as humans are descended from some African baboon that evolved over millions of years from a fish-like creature, yet that cannot be observed either.  That means in essence that their empiricism is selective, and what is unsavory to them should therefore be dismissed as false. As we have seen, it means then a radical reworking of recorded facts for them to fit their narrative, and thus revisionism to justify non-belief is their fruit.  As we pick up with this later, more will be seen as to how it relates to how justification on the part of such "theologians" is manufactured, and how so much of it draws upon some rather controversial philosophers (such as Heidegger and Nietzsche) to the degree that their own legacies are white-washed in order to give credibility to these theses.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Secularization of Christianity Part XII - Diminishing Christ to Exalt Secularism

In my own study of various religious groups over the years, the root genesis of any cult or heresy is often centered upon the person of Jesus Christ, and as can be seen, there are many ways in which cults and heresies redefine Christ to make Him fit into their own agendas:

1.  He is often reduced to merely a "great teacher," as is the case in many New Age-type groups.

2.  His divinity is denied and outright rejected, a heresy that stretches back to Arius in the 3rd century.

3.  Many cults and heresies focus on Jesus the man rather than having a proper understanding of the hypostatic union (Jesus being two natures - fully man and fully God - in one Person).

However, it is not only cults and heretical schools of thought that reduce Jesus in such a way, but even self-proclaimed "Christian" theologians, in particular those of a more liberal bent.   In recent years for instance, the "Emerging Church" movement that has infected American Evangelical Protestants has tended to emphasize the humanity of Jesus over His divinity, and in doing so they often teeter on the verge of heresy by practically dismissing His divinity altogether.  A good example is this picture which recently has circulated about the "real Jesus," a speculation on what He looked like, and to be honest it makes our Lord look like a caveman:

People who come up with this sort of stuff often do not even realize they are bordering on the heretical, and when Jesus in His person is diminished in such a way, it also becomes reflected in the attitudes concerning Jesus we hear.   One such example happened that I experienced about six years ago, when I was sitting in a graduate New Testament Theology class at my alma mater where I received my Bachelor's some years earlier.  A student in that class, a Korean-American who identified as a Pentecostal, actually said in a class that Jesus was essentially not omniscient, and that there is no way (at least in the mind of this misguided classmate) that Jesus could know anything on earth because He too was "evolving."  Mind you, this was a guy who was saying this who supposedly identified as a conservative Pentecostal!  Mentalities like this, however, are becoming par for the course, and now even supposed "Evangelicals" are rejecting basic things such as the Atonement - one example of this is Rob Bell, a rather controversial and well-known pastor and author whose 2010 book, Love Wins, espoused a heretical universalism that in essence denies the need for the Cross and the need for accepting Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life to gain salvation and reconciliation with the Father, as John 14:6 reminds us.  And, Bell is not alone - a host of Evangelicals and former Evangelicals such as Don Earl Paulk, Carlton Pearson, Brian McLaren, and others espouse similar views.  Many claim to embrace this heresy as a sort of "new revelation," but in referring back to Mascall's text, we see it is just the same repackaged nonsense that people such as Paul van Buren were embracing decades earlier, and that Arius and other heretics were peddling even in the earliest centuries of the Church.   Picking up there, Mascall addresses the faulty Christology embraced and preached by van Buren, and shows in essence that diminishing Christ's divinity is one avenue of secularization of the Church.

Trying to make Jesus "more human" is something that understandably many Christians desire - especially among Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, who emphasize the need for a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ as being pivotal.  Thing is, the facts have established that Jesus was human, but they also affirm that Jesus was also fully God as well.  In Mascall's text, beginning on page 47 and continuing on for several pages, he describes in detail the Christological position van Buren embraces, and essentially it breaks down into these elements:

1.  The Logos-Christology, according to van Buren, was developed by early Christians in order to defend against the charge that Christians worshipped a mere man - in other words, according to this idea, the divinity of Christ was an "invention" of Christians as an apologetic defense against their detractors.

2.  Like Bultmann and others before him, this divinizing of Christ was a "mythological notion" that served a sort of psychological purpose for its time.

3.  Van Buren asserts that because of this "invented" divinity attributed to the man Christ, His humanity was diminished - for van Buren, it is almost a turn of the tables against orthodox Christology as for him denying Jesus was "only a man" denies He is a man in all other senses.

4.  For van Buren, the hypostatic union (Jesus as fully God and fully man together) that is accepted as truth by the Church and is professed in the historic Creeds is self-contradictory, or at best, meaningless.

5.  Also, for van Buren, he recommends a revisionism of Patristic affirmations of Jesus which is based on linguistic empiricism to the extreme - this means essentially rejecting the Incarnation. 

As Mascall notes on page 49, van Buren's attitude lands him in complete denial of many essential Christological truths, and also of all forms of natural theology as well as even of genuine religious experience outside the Christian sphere.  For van Buren then, affirmed truths about the Godhead which refer to Jesus as God the Son in particular can be accepted only if re-interpreted as statements about Jesus devoid of dogmatic standard.  I am now going to add a few thoughts of my own to this as it relates to my own field - catechesis - and also I want to show how van Buren is no different than Arius of the past or of contemporary cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses which also deny the divinity of Jesus.

The historic Creeds of the Church (Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian) all affirm that Jesus is God Incarnate, and that He is one person of a Triune Godhead.  Statements in the Nicene Creed about Jesus for instance, that He is "very God of Very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father by Whom all things are made," state very clearly the Church's belief regarding the person of Jesus.  Theologically, of course, this is what is called the hypostatic union, meaning that Jesus is both fully God and fully man, or two natures in one Person.  It is one of those things which is rightly called a "mystery of faith," in that it can be understood and accepted, but not always articulated linguistically.  For an extreme linguistic empiricist such as van Buren, this creates a problem - if it cannot be explained by the human mind in clearly-defined terminology, it is then "myth" and must be viewed as such by people like him.  Herein lies the problem then - if the Person of Jesus is diminished to a "mere man" with no supernatural attributes whatsoever, it only follows then that other aspects of doctrine concerning Christ - the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, etc. - must then be denied as well.  It means then, essentially, a denial of the very salvation we profess to believe as Christians, and this is a big problem.  In denying those aspects of Christology, and then redefining them on human, linguistically-empirical terms as "human" only, one forfeits the identity of being Christian and in essence becomes a heretic - and, despite being nominally Anglican and claiming to be a "Christian theologian," van Buren is in essence a non-Christian in that he fails to accept fundamental truths of the Christian faith because they don't mesh with his rational explanations.   Sadly, that is endemic today even in what used to be considered a fairly safe haven of "conservative" Christianity such as the Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and Pentecostals, and is no longer merely the domain of liberal "mainline" theologians and Biblicists.  Further, Mascall includes this discussion here for a very important reason - in order to secularize the Church, cardinal doctrines must be redefined in naturalistic terms and confined to linguistic empiricism in order to "demythologize" Christianity.  However, that leaves an important question - is a "demythologized" Christianity, devoid of the supernatural and the mysteries of faith, truly even a Christianity at all?  Or, is it merely "sanctified atheism" or a generic "deism" which has a "Christian" facade?  This is really the fundamental issue of the entire discussion. 

In popular culture too, we see this mentality marketed in entertainment and other cultural venues, such as the Eric Bazilian composition that was made popular by singer Joan Osborne in 1995 called "What If God Were One of Us?"  or John Lennon's 1971 humanist anthem "Imagine."  The problem with popular culture is its own secularizing influence on Christianity, in that there are supposed self-professed Christians who acclaim the spiritual profundity of these types of songs, although the songs themselves are heretical.  In his 1878 encyclical Inscrutabili Dei Consilio, the late Pope St. Leo XIII notes that often society and the Church conflict in regard to these issues, and therefore for a Christian to base theology on a figment of pop culture such as a popular song is, for the late Pontiff, a conflict of interest - he says in the encyclical that "the very notion of civilization is a fiction of the brain if it rest not on the abiding principles of truth and the unchanging laws of virtue and justice, and if unfeigned love knit not together the wills of men, and gently control the interchange and the character of their mutual service."  Further he writes, "Now, the source of these evils lies chiefly, we are convinced, in this, that the holy and venerable authority of the Church, which in God's name rules mankind, upholding and defending all lawful authority, has been despised and set aside" (Pope Leo XIII, Inscrutibili Dei Consilio, published April 21, 1878, and available at - Accessed 3/22/2018).  Also, in contrast to the diminishing attitude of van Buren's linguistic empiricist position regarding the person of Christ, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the moral law finds its fullness and unity in Christ, and that Jesus Christ is in person the way of perfection (CCC 1953).  Christ is therefore the end of the law (natural, moral, and otherwise) and only He teaches and bestows the justice of God (CCC 1977 and Romans 10:4).  If Christ is then stripped of His divinity and is only merely a human being, then none of this is possible and it means that there is a hopelessness for the redemption of humanity.  For the secularist, then, it means a moral relativism free of the restraints of moral law and even in contradiction of natural law - the secularist ironically affirms naturalism, while at the same time denying the reality that natural law has a supernatural origin.  Therefore, when the divinity of Christ is diminished and the "holy and venerable authority" of the Church has been despised and cast aside, it means that moral law becomes solely the domain of individual interpretation.  And, that leads to some further implications.

St. Symeon the New Theologian notes that the acceptance of Jesus as God the Son is a spiritual glory, and that encompasses the hypostatic union.  He says, "He (natural man - my add) cannot perceive spiritual glory solely through his intelligence, just as those blind from birth cannot know the sun's light solely through their intelligence" (St. Symeon the New Theologian, "Practical and Theological Texts," in St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarius of Corinth, The Philokalia, Volume 4.  G.E.H. Palmer, Phillip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, trans.  London:  Faber and Faber, 1995.  p. 31).  Likewise, St. Thomas Aquinas notes that Christ is pivotal to soteriological hope in that "rather than impugning God's goodness and omnipotence, evil instead provides the opportunity for God to display goodness and omnipotence even more clearly because God responds to the evil introduced by human sin with an even greater good:  Christ."  (St. Thomas Aquinas, The Treatise on the Divine Nature:  Summa Theologiae I, 1-13.  Brian Shanley, O.P., trans.  Indianapolis:  Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.: 2006. pp. 199-200).  In synthesizing what SS. Symeon and Thomas have said, here it is in a nutshell - Jesus is God the Son as well as man, and His Incarnation is a spiritual glory that cannot be grasped by mere empirical language and intelligence in that it represents a greater good, a demonstration of God's love, in that God responds to the problem of evil by providing the ultimate good, descending Himself in the flesh to save mankind.   The salvation of mankind is intrinsically related as well to the preservation of the good of civilization, in that a redeemed mankind can then positively impact society.  The secularist fails in trying to improve based on his own efforts and merits, and by casting the Church aside and diminishing Christ to a "mere man" devoid of divinity, it means that evil is allowed to reign.  But, for the secularist, evil is redefined, and what God and His Church call evil is now touted as "virtuous" by the secularist (note Isaiah 5:20 here).  As John Horvat notes in his book Return to Order (York, PA:  York Press, 2013), "In this grandiose conception of self, the self-made man sees himself as the product of his own personal ingenuity and strength.  He is the ultimate judge of what is right and wrong" (Horvat, Return to Order, p. 34).  In other words, the secularist in essence becomes an arbiter of morality, and by diminishing Christ and divorcing Christian doctrine from the Church (secularization), it essentially means an unraveling and breakdown.  The secularizing theologian tends to justify his actions, as Mascall elaborates regarding van Buren's views in particular on pages 50-51 of his text, by stating that such a person doesn't necessarily deny God, but they "secularize" Jesus - in essence, they are turning Jesus into either a revolutionary or a great moral teacher/philosopher. As continues on page 52 of Mascall's text, those like van Buren in essence say that Jesus is "created" to essentially carry out God's sovereign plan and that Jesus is not in possession of the plan alone, as He cannot be divine.  Van Buren's "demythologizing" also seems to be foundated not on his own conclusions alone, but also owes much to the influence of Bultmann as well as another writer, Schubert M. Ogden (born 1928), and his views will now be discussed.

Schubert M. Ogden (born 1928)

Ogden is an American theologian who was a protege of Bultmann's and had corresponded with him up until the latter's death in 1976.  His take on theology is that doctrine is distinct from experience, and he placed a greater importance on the latter rather than the former.  Human experience, therefore for Ogden, determines theology, and therefore must be judged for credibility on the part of human experience rather than theology as understood by the historic teachings of the Church.  Philosophical inquiry, then, determines this credibility.  From the outset, it looks as if Ogden is trying to re-establish the connection between theology and philosophy that was severed during the Enlightenment, but in reality he is a theological Averroist in the tradition of Marsilus and others - theology is subservient to human experience and wisdom, and is shaped by it according to him.  The book Mascall references of Ogden's in regard to the current discussion is Ogden's 1961 text Christ Without Myth.  As Mascall notes on pages 53-54 of his text, the problem the views of both Ogden and his mentor Bultmann creates is that it necessitates a required demythologization which warrants a rejection of all belief in a transcendent order of reality - instead, belief for Ogden and others holding this perspective is a reformulation of "mythology" as a description of the religious experience of the Christian.  If you will recall Archer's "Central Narrative Convictions" discussed earlier, it means then that the "religious story" of the individual is merely subjective, but since "myth" serves a therapeutic purpose in this scheme, it is not rejected entirely but instead is interpreted then as an expression of man's existential understanding - hmmmm!!!  In the cliche "Houston, we have a problem!" there is an underlying redefinition of CNC's then as being merely "coping mechanisms" rather as a response of faith to a God who is real.  This seems to also line up with Merold Westphal's assertion as noted earlier that "tradition" is defined by him as merely a type of "positive prejudice" that can be arbitrarily classified as either "legitimate" or "enabling" based on individual understanding or misunderstanding.   The subjugation of Tradition to being a mere arbitrary "prejudice" also plays into Ogden's assertion that belief is based on subjective experience and must be "demythologized" in order to get to the rational fact.  This subjectivism then becomes the basis for a secularization - arbitrarily divorcing those things viewed as "subjective" from an individualistic stance is a matter of experience, and therefore one "experience" is as valid as another, and thus the concepts of "right" and "wrong," as well as morality itself, becomes redefined.  To assert there are absolutes, then, is "myth" and thus is subject to redefinition for the secularist.  Unfortunately, that even puts the person and divinity of Jesus Christ under the microscope, and this in turn undermines what Christianity truly is.

A few concluding observations are warranted here.  First, the corruptions of the secularist in no way takes away from the idea of the Central Narrative Conviction - a CNC is, in essence, our individual response to a transcendent reality beyond ourselves, and indeed culture and experience play a part in that.  However, this is to be distinguished from denying universal truths and fundamental faith of the Christian Church, as these are indeed transcendental to us - how we receive and live them however is unique and incommunicable to our personhood as individuals, and rather affirms the supernatural reality of God's existence rather than denying it.  Second, the reality of Jesus as a person is without dispute - more people witnessed Jesus as alive and a real person in His earthly lifetime than they did William Shakespeare or Julius Caesar, so Jesus is a historic reality.  Also, the orthodox Christology in regard to the hypostatic union (Jesus being fully God and fully man - two complete natures in one Person) is likewise beyond debate for the Christian - rather than being the subjective expression of a "myth," the divinity of Jesus is central to what it means to be a Christian, and although not necessarily articulated by human language or wisdom, as a mystery of faith it is affirmed true nonetheless.  As SS. Symeon the New Theologian and Thomas Aquinas have established, natural human wisdom cannot always fathom supernatural realities, and it is the height of arrogance to even attempt to or to dismiss them as mere "mythology."  Science and natural reason can explain so much, but they are not infinite wisdom as there is also a metaphysical dimension to life and existence as well. 

Third, and finally, the "demythologizing" of Christ's divinity has consequences for civilization as a whole.  In "demythologizing" and secularizing important tenets of the Christian faith, it guts the essence of what it means to be truly Christian.  And, it also opens the door to a relativistic morality which in turn can have catastrophic consequences on a society.  We have seen the worst manifestations of this in recent decades, and unfortunately if continued unchecked it could prove to be society's undoing. Faith and life are essentially interconnected, and as life is lived out in society, our faith shapes the way we live it out.  Hence, this is why Mascall's seminal work is vital, and as an issue this needs to be addressed in 2018 even more so than in 1965, when his text was first written.  In the next segment, I will delving more into the connection between these "theologians" such as van Buren and Ogden, and how they also are connected to and influenced by some poisonous philosophical views from Heidegger and even Nietzsche.   

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Secularization of Christianity Part XI - Decay and Decline as Endemic of Secularization

As we continue this study, I must note from the outset and reiterate what I established at the beginning - Mascall's book is a roadmap for my own perspective in these matters, as he provides a skeleton upon which I can then construct a thesis for this series.  Therefore, the purpose of what I am doing here is not to be a page-by-page review of Mascall's text, but rather to capitalize on key ideas he is expressing and then elaborate on them.  Mascall's work was written over 50 years ago, so a lot has happened.  However, many of the things he discusses are even more relevant now than they were  when the book was published, and that is where my perspective comes in.

I want to begin this part of the study by picking up on page 45 of Mascall's text, where he notes that Paul van Buren (who we examined earlier) finds as his guiding principle for the secularization of Christianity what Mascall notes as a philosophical school called linguistic analysis.  When discussing linguistic analysis, it is important to define what it is first.  Essentially, it is a philosophical position that takes language itself, rather than the subject matter discussed, as a primary focus of study.  Looking at this from the outset, problems immediately surface in regard to this approach that van Buren and others seemed to favor, as it doesn't make logical sense.  First, the focus of study is the subject matter, and the language it is expressed in is merely the vehicle to communicate it.  It is therefore an excuse for an elitist to discredit something they loathe based on language rather than the topic of discussion, and by nitpicking language, the person advancing this pseudo-philosophical position is in essence trying to justify their own biases by redefining the language in order to discredit the subject.  For academia to even consider this approach is somewhat ludicrous, as it detracts from scholarly inquiry by focusing on minutiae.  Unfortunately, however, this has become commonplace in even theological and philosophical circles, and it has in a sense "dumbed-down" the learning process.  There is a discussion of Bultmann's agenda regarding this, and a critique that Mascall references of Bultmann's agenda by A.M. Farrer notes that this agenda of Bultmann's can be broken down into two parts:

1.  For Bultmann, the biblical presentation of the Gospel is given in mythological terms which are unintelligible and unacceptable to modern man, due to the fact that modern man doesn't believe in a three-tiered universe, divine intervention, or a world of spirits.  Therefore, for Bultmann, the Gospel must be "demythologized."  There is a familiar ring to this, as it was advanced by many others prior to Bultmann.   Starting with Descartes, for instance, the methodology of faith is redefined by a new understanding of nature by essentially politicizing Scripture (going back to Marsilus and Machiavelli) initially and then cosmologically applying that same process to cosmology - it mechanizes nature, in other words, and ignores supernatural revelation (Hahn and Wiker, Politicizing the Bible, pp. 258, 264).  This was later elaborated on some centuries later by D.F. Strauss, who proposed that is historicity is denied, then the account must therefore by mythical (Hahn and Wiker, p. 553).  For Strauss then, what it means is the forging of philosophical truths out of myths (ibid., p. 554).  It therefore reduces Scripture to the this-worldly, and political/social progress rather than the truth of divine Revelation becomes the focus of Scripture. 

2.  In the second part of Bultmann's agenda, once the demythologizing has been accomplished, man's religion is restored to him in the existential act of faith, evoked from the Kerygma, which Bultmann asserts as some quasi-utopian goal of the morality of the Kerygma divorced from its reality - this is taking Spinoza's proposal of confining religion to its "proper place" in society to the max, in that it becomes a lofty moral imperative rather than historical fact as well.  Hilaire Belloc, in his seminal work The Servile State, notes that the problem of this idea is as he states on page 53:  "This moral strain comes from a contradiction between the realities of {the} Capitalist and the moral base of our laws and traditions" (Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State.  London:  T.N. Foulis, 1912 - reprint 2008 by Seven Treasures Publications).  What Belloc means by this is that when religious faith is secularized, for instance, it loses an important dimension that Bultmann and others seem to either ignore or not care about.  It is also the realized vision of Machiavelli's use of religion for political prestige.   What Bultmann and others miss by their "demythologizing" and use of linguistic analysis as a philosophical basis is what Russian thinker Ivan Ilyin notes in his classic text The Singing Heart:  "And when the atheists ask us why we don't see Him with our physical eye, we answer that is precisely because we do not hallucinate.  We perceive Him not with our body, not with our senses, but with our spirit, through our spiritual experience, and with our spiritual vision.  It is pointless, naive, and primitive to imagine that the only realities are those accessible through our five senses" (Ivan Ilyin, The Singing Heart.  Moscow: Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate, 2005.  English translation published by Orthodox Christian Translation Society, Memphis, TN, in 2006, p. 87).   Ilyin makes an important point that Bultmann and others like him miss - the Christian faith is not subject to "demythologizing," and neither is Scripture, simply because divine Revelation mysteriously encompasses supernatural as well as natural reality.  Just because we don't see or experience it tangibly, in other words, doesn't make it any less real.  What this means then is that Bultmann's "demythologized Christianity or religion" is not true religion at all, but merely a shell of itself.

The weird thing about Bultmann in regard to this, as Mascall points out on page 46, is that while he practically jettisons almost all the historicity of the Gospels, in particular its miraculous and supernatural elements, he oddly accepts the fact of the Crucifixion and the historicity of Jesus as a real person.   The paradox though of this is that Jesus is reduced to merely a revolutionary then who was martyred for his radical proposals to reform society (later expounded in other directions by racist "liberation theologians" such as James Cone).  However, Bultmann's positions are somewhat mild as compared with his proteges, as is usually the case - it is not unusual for a radically liberal theologian from a generation later to go further than those who mentored them.  The one that Mascall notes in particular is Fritz Buri (1907-1995) who went further than Bultmann in denying not only the "mythological" aspects of the Gospel, but the very Kerygma itself.  Buri was a Swiss Reformed clergyman and professor of theology who also studied under Martin Werner (1887-1964), a Swiss Reformed theologian who was influenced by Albert Schweitzer and thus reduced Jesus to a mythical social reformer rather than God the Son who was incarnated to bring salvation to the world.  Whereas Bultmann at least attempted to hold onto some semblance of Christian belief, Buri didn't even have the pretense of doing so - he was a thoroughly secularized theologian divorced from Christian faith.  This even led to his receiving a rebuke in 1962 from Karl Barth of all people, who saw Buri's position as simply "unbelievable," describing it essentially as a prettily-packaged Christology that was in reality reduced to mere anthropology ("Fritz Buri" at - Accessed 3/20/2018).  Buri has much in common with van Buren then, as like van Buren he is concerned only with secularizing the faith of Christians and thus has no pretensions about his objective.  Mascall notes that van Buren's assertion of "a conversation from 'faith to faith'" is in reality the conversion by the secularist from the Christian faith as traditionally understood to a more "secularized" faith that is essentially "Christian" in name only. 

What we see here is a slippery slope of secularism that began with the Enlightenment and found its fullest manifestation in what is essentially a "secularized Christianity," gutted of its supernatural dimension and "demythologized" in order to make it more palatable to secular outlooks.  But, the writer G.K. Chesterton offers some hope, in that the Church is Christ's, and despite the onslaught of secularization, there is a quality of the Christian Church that she shares with her Bridegroom, and Chesterton expresses that sentiment in his seminal The  Everlasting Man when he writes the following:  "Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave" (G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man.  Rough Draft Publishing, 2013 {Reprinted from original}, p. 160).  And, if one does believe Scripture is truthful (as a devout Christian should) then we have hope in that in the end, God wins.  And, that leads me into a few closing thoughts as we end this part of the study.

The secularist is a fruit of the Fall as recorded in Genesis 3 - although the secularist may deny the reality of the supernatural and even the existence of a transcendant God, in reality the secularist has bought into the old lie of the serpent - "you shall become gods."  There is really no such thing as a true atheist, and human nature really doesn't allow for the existence of a true atheism - man has a sense that something must drive his destiny, even if it's his own reasoning, and therefore everyone ends up worshipping something whether they admit it or not.  However, there is only one true God, and denying His existence or re-writing it in secular terms doesn't diminish that fact.  When the secularist though tries to take on the facade of "Christian" as a theologian, it presents a problem for that person in that they cannot worship two masters unless conflict happens within their own being.  So, in order to make things more "comfortable" the "secular Christian" diminishes God by redefinition of traditionally understood norms, and "demythologizing" those things which conflict with one's agenda.   This is the ultimate attribute evident in the theologies of Bultmann, Buri, van Buren, and a host of others like them.  Bottom line, the Kerygma is complete, and is to be accepted as a whole - the supernatural as well as the moral.  If one is ditched at the expense of the other, it produces a false Gospel, and in time it unravels because it is missing what keeps it together.  This will be discussed more in the series as we continue the study, and hopefully it may even have evangelistic fruit by exposing the folly and futility of divorcing Christian morality from supernatural reality simply because it doesn't compute with one's natural reasoning.  Maybe it is time such people realize that not everything is going to be tangibly understood, as some things transcend nature without either contradicting or denying it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Secularization of Christianity Part X - Moral Norms, Cultural Relativity, and Secularism

Before we delve into continuing to read Mascall's text, I wanted to make a couple of observations from last time and expand upon them.  One of them concerns Merold Westphal's notion that "tradition" is somehow subject to revision and change.  Westphal, a philosopher by vocation, is attempting in his book to tackle as an "expert" Biblical hermeneutics, and when he does so he, unfortunately, falls short.  Let's look for instance on page 108 of his book Whose Community? Which Interpretation?  Here, Westphal has appropriated hermeneutics to mean something it doesn't, namely that presuppositions can be revised or replaced based essentially on the present mindset of secular society (Westphal doesn't specifically delineate that, but it fits well into the context of his writing).  He says that although a meaning can be literal, it is also subject to revision based on translation of the same meaning in a variety of different contexts - this means, as he establishes beginning on page 119 of his book, that Westphal begins to see the political liberal agenda as a "model for the Church," which is the title of that particular chapter in his book. This leads him to later see virulently anti-Christian figures such as Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud as being what he calls "prophetic voices to Christendom" as he writes on page 140.  This is problematic, in that God doesn't force people who oppose Him to be "prophetic voices" unless maybe they are the fruit of an error of neglect on the part of the Church itself - Westphal doesn't even try to establish that, which is why his logic here is very faulty.  Westphal's perspective is essentially a form of proportionalist reasoning, which as author Christopher Kaczor notes is characterized by arguing for different conclusions but presupposes the same question as what he calls a "manualistic account of the moral law" (Christopher Kaczor, Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition. Washington, DC:  Catholic University of America Press, 2002. p. 174).  As Kaczor elaborates, this manualistic account means that morality becomes a voluntary choice essentially (in this context, morality is subject to redefinition according to societal trends and is not subject to universal standards), and is defined by seeking exceptions to traditional moral norms and it also seeks to make a false distinction between goodness and rightness of action (Kaczor, pp. 175, 9).  If applied to Westphal's assertion that traditions can be revised and replaced at will, and that all of a sudden enemies of Christianity become "prophetic voices to Christendom," it means that a wrong intention for Westphal produces a good result (I think!) - or vise versa.  If I can sort this out, for Westphal, it matters little that Marx and Nietzsche formulated philosophies that ended up being responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, or that Freud would later inspire Kinsey and Margaret Sanger to turn sexual ethics on its ear opening the door for the radical redefinitions of marriage and family, and even of the idea of a "person," but their intention was sort of "prophetic" for Westphal - he would see Communism as "Christian," in other words, because of the "prophetic message" of Marx against materialism," and he would also see religious revisionism as necessary because hypocrisy drove Nietzsche to declare "God is dead" and therefore make deification of an ubermensch a goal of evolutionary progress.  This proportionalistic position of Westphal has proven time and again to be deficient, and no whitewashing, revision, or replacement of traditionally-held norms and standards will change it - sorry, Merold Westphal, but you are wrong!  Westphal's mistaken logic is nothing new - we have seen it play out in a more tragic scale with Jim Jones, for instance, who would have said the same thing based on both Macchiavelli's proposal that religion is a tool to manipulate the masses for political control, and the proportionalist understanding that goodness and rightness of action are unrelated to each other.  And, in November of 1978, we saw how that worked when over 900 of Jones's followers committed mass suicide in the remote jungles of Guyana.  So, what does the Church have to say about this?  Let's examine that briefly before continuing onto Mascall's text.

In response to Westphal's assertions that traditions can be redefined or replaced, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a couple of observations in response.  First, while no one can be forced to accept traditional morality - a right based theologically on the fact God endowed man with free will - and the dignity of personhood is always to be upheld (CCC 2106), it also means that these rights (specifically religious liberty in this context, but also applicable to morality as well) are neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error (CCC 2108).  In other words, freedom is a virtue, but it doesn't entail the right to say or do everything (CCC 1740).  If one chooses to take that direction, it is a deviation from moral law that actually violates personal freedom rather than expressing it, and it imprisons the perpetrator of such acts within oneself, as well as disrupting relationships with others and rebelling against divine truth (ibid.).   This means then that freedom makes man a moral subject (CCC 1749) and that despite both the positions of Westphal and the proportionalist, acts freely chosen can be morally evaluated, and also can be clearly classified as good or evil.  This means then that the mantra of many self-professed "Christians" who try to justify sin by using Scriptures such as Matthew 7:1-3 (the "judge not lest you be judged" passage) is in reality against what God has established, and Scriptures taken to justify bad behavior are out of context and do not even relate to what the Gospel writer was saying.  A good example of this happened yesterday with the passing of Stephen Hawking(1942-2018), the renown physicist. Hawking was a brilliant man, no doubt, and his tenacity at overcoming a major disability (ALS) is admirable.  But, throughout his life Hawking was also very anti-Christian, and although it has been debated whether he was a full atheist or merely agnostic, the fact is he lived a life unfortunately that denied Christ.  If perhaps he recanted of that and made his peace in his last moments, that would be wonderful.  But, based on his life, it is highly doubtful.  In social media discussion yesterday, a young and somewhat immature girl named April began to combat Christians who questioned Hawking's eternal state by throwing out this worn-out "judge not" premise, again totally out of context of what it said. She too embraced a proportionalist moral view that merely being a "good person" by intent, despite action, merits one's eternal salvation, and in doing so she was heretically denying the reality that salvation is only found in the person of Christ.  She also, by denying Christ and His role of salvation, embraced a quasi-universalist soteriology at odds with both Church teaching and Scripture, and she attempted to, like Westphal proposed, to redefine it based on her knee-jerk responses that asserted that somehow celebrity status guarantees one a place in Glory.   Unlike the ignorant rants of people like April though, the Church has taught, as the Catechism references noted above, that man is morally responsible for his actions which can be judged as good or evil, and in denying God's providence in his life, Hawking essentially was culpable of a bad moral action according to that standard.  What people don't realize is that when we start consigning celebrities to heaven based on how we like their singing, or their acting, etc., we are in a sense secularizing Christianity in a real way.  As Pope Pius X noted in his 1907 encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, modernism has as its foundation agnosticism, which many say Hawking embraced.  External revelation (meaning divine Revelation from a supernatural God) is done away with by the modernist because human reason for them is confined to the senses and what is perceptible to them.  A supernatural God that cannot be seen, then, is unthinkable (this idea is also reflected in Descartes as well) and therefore such a Being cannot be historical or real because the senses cannot perceive them.  The agnostic is faced with an issue then in that if things do elude explanation, then that means something must be at their origin, but human reason states this is not important for the agnostic because, and this is the real issue, presupposing the existence of a supernatural Being as the cause would conflict with their worldview.  The agnostic is one who struggles with that, but the atheist outright denies it.  This means then that the agnostic has the evidence and doesn't want to dismiss it, yet doesn't know what to do with it either because the thought of a supernatural God that proves them wrong is incomprehensible.  Yet, as Pius X notes, it means that the agnostic is essentially an atheist in denial for the most part (Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 1907, at - Accessed 3/15/2018).  Likewise, Pope St. Leo XIII, in almost a prophetic refutation of Westphal's notions almost 100 years before, states in Libertas that "whatsoever is good in those (human - my add) liberties is as ancient as truth itself, and that the Church has always willingly approved and practiced that good; but whatsoever has been added as new is, to tell the plain truth, of a vitiated kind, the fruit of the disorders of the age, and of an insatiate longing after novelties" (Pope St. Leo XII, Libertas (On the Nature of Human Liberty), published June 20, 1888, found at - Accessed 3/15/2018).  It means, then, that contrary to Westphal's assertions that truth can be redefined and replaced,  morality and certain other things are universally defined as either good or evil, and it is their revision that is disordered, not their conservation! 

Back to Mascall's text now, on page 43 he poses a question that relates to all this - should he (meaning the Christian in Asia or Africa in this instance) first secularize himself to come into line with us, or should he accommodate his Christianity to his own inherited beliefs in pantheism, reincarnation, witchcraft, and so on?   Honestly, that is an excellent question, and it presents the dilemma - a Christian in another country is still a sinful human being, and looking at it that way it means that certain things in their own native culture are as damaging as those in secular Western culture.  Paul van Buren, the liberal Anglican theologian Mascall is discussing here, would deny, as any modernist would, the distinctive intellectual content of the Gospel and this means for him the necessity to adopt the secularist Godless outlook of the world around them.  Noting another writer, Harry Blamires, Mascall inserts a quote that says it all from his work The Christian Mind which says this - the Christian mind has succumbed to the secular drift, with a degree of weakness and nervelessness unmatched in Christian history.   This quote, included on page 43 of Mascall's text, was written in 1963, but it is truer today.   Blamires, who was a very astute British theologian and literary scholar who was a close associate of C.S. Lewis, notes many years after the fact that this is even more evident - when he died at the age of 101 last year, he was still maintaining his original thesis (Kate Shellnut, "Died: Harry Blamires, The C.S. Lewis Protege Who Rediscovered 'The Christian Mind'", published 12/8/2017 and available at - Accessed 3/15/2017).   Having lived up until about 3 months ago now, I would surmise that Blamires noticed what he prophetically observed over 50 years ago more clearly than ever, and theologians like Blamires are a true credit to Christian thought. 

Dr. Harry Blamires (1916-2017)

An amusing note by Mascall at the bottom of page 43 expresses an important sentiment - Mascall notes that he doubts whether Blamires realized how someone like Paul van Buren would take the warning he gave in The Christian Mind as a guiding principle for his own secularization,  and this is indeed surprising.  I find it interesting that true "prophetic voices" such as Blamires (as well as Pope St. Leo XIII a generation earlier) give us fair warning, but some among us take it as inspiration to do the opposite.  I suppose it is just concupiscent human nature maybe to do so?  That is a mystery worth discussion at some point for sure.  As Mascall also notes on page 44 in regard to van Buren and those like him (including Merold Westphal, I will add) that these people have no theology of the secular, but rather are interested in secularizing theology.  Although Mascall gives a nod to Teilhard de Chardin in the next sentence, I differ here with Mascall in regard to de Chardin, and here is why - while Mascall states that de Chardin's purpose was the transformation of the created world in accordance with the purposes of God, de Chardin's actual work has quite the opposite effect.  Let's talk about Teilhard a little, since he has been referenced on occasion here, and show where he differs significantly from what Mascall thinks he is.

Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a French Jesuit priest and philosopher who is often noted as a paleontologist as well.  In his lifetime, his writings were rightly censored by the Church as heretical, due to his positions on original sin, although unfortunately he has had more insidious influence insofar as the blind acceptance by many Catholics of theistic evolution and other similar notions - one writer I have read recently even suggested that de Chardin's influence can be noted in Vatican II documents such as Gaudium et Spes (note particularly Hugh Owen's evaluation of de Chardin in his article "Teilhard de Chardin: False Prophet of a 'New Christianity,' at, and I want to clarify that now.  Vatican II has been somewhat controversial in the Church not so much for what its content is, but rather for its implementation by some.  As my good friend and noted Catholic monarchist scholar Charles Coulombe points out however, 80% of the content of the Vatican II documents does have continuity with historic Church teaching, and the amount that doesn't does not have to be accepted by orthodox Catholics.  If de Chardin had an influence in penning Gaudium et Spes or anything else, then that influence can and should be easily rejected while still retaining what is good in the documents.  De Chardin was also an early proponent of transhumanism, and for the Catholic this creates an issue in regard to dignity of personhood as upheld by the Thomistic tradition of the Church.  Teihard, much like renegade former Catholic priest Matthew Fox, also exerted an influence on the New Age movement, which itself should raise suspicions too - ironically, many New Agers see him as similar to Helena Blavatsky, who founded the occultic Theosophical Society.  Although more orthodox theologians of the Church, notable Henri de Lubac, were lifelong friends of Chardin, this doesn't mean that de Chardin should have credibility, and his work should be approached with caution.  This is why at times I find it somewhat mind-boggling that people such as Frank Tipler and Mascall, both of whom are fairly orthodox Christians within their respective traditions, would praise de Chardin while more orthodox Catholic scholars rightly reject him. 

Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

This proves that even astute and orthodox scholars such as Mascall don't always get everything correct, for if Mascall had dug somewhat deeper, he would have realized that de Chardin was just as culpable as Robinson, van Buren, and Bultmann in secularizing the Church, and looking at today's Catholic Church, that is self-evident although thankfully not universal.  

When I pick up in the next segment, I will discuss the idea of "demythologizing" as a means of secularizing Christianity, as there have been important implications of that dating back to the Enlightenment.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Secularization of Christianity Part IX - Does the Gospel Have a Secular Meaning?

As I am continuing to read through and reflect upon Mascall's classic text, The Secularization of Christianity, I open this part of my reflections with a disturbing observation I had this past Sunday.  In the 6th-grade CCD class I teach at our parish church, there is a young Mexican-American girl named Yesica.  Yesica is a sweet kid, and like all the kids I am responsible for catechizing, I think a whole lot of her and also assume a personal responsibility for her as well as the others I teach in regard to their faith formation.   In assigning a Bible-based project for the year to my kids in the class, Yesica asks me a rather odd question - "What is a Gospel?"  That innocent question - and please don't judge Yesica too harshly in posing it, as her honesty is actually a good launching-point for evangelization - is the main reason why this study is so necessary.  Many of our kids - even in Catholic parishes - have been deprived of even basic knowledge of what a Gospel actually is, and it reflects the secularization of the Church that Mascall evaluates in his text.  What has happened, and as we shall see, is that the "good" parts of the Gospel have been extracted by the secularist in order to make his own goals more palatable.  There are a couple of up-front observations on this that need to be made.  First, despite how much a secularist tries to divorce faith from reason, the bottom line is that there are certain virtues that the human race as a whole esteems which cannot be escaped becauset they are of divine origin.  Secondly, it is unfortunate that some try to divorce certain attributes from their fullest expression in divine Revelation, and in doing so unfortunately it means that in time these attributes become arbitrary and subject to the interpretation of those who seek to apply them to a secularist values system. Lest we think that this is taking place outside of the Church, Mascall reminds us that theologians and Biblical scholars are also culpable of this divorcing of faith from reason, and he opens the second chapter of his book with exactly that discussion. 

Mascall, in this chapter, opens by evaluating the work of liberal theologian John A.T. Robinson's work Honest to God.  We have already been introduced to some of Robinson's weird views, and have already noted him as being an extremely liberal Anglican, in direct opposition on a lot of issues with Mascall, who tends to be more of an Anglo-Catholic traditionalist.  Mascall notes on page 40 that three adjectives come to mind in describing Robinson's work - "secularist," "demythologizing," and "existentialist."  Mascall notes also that Robinson and many who hold similar views write in ways that are often self-contradictory.  To insert my personal observation on this, the reason that happens is because the Judeo-Christian worldview and that of the secularist are diametrically opposed, and when someone tries to be both, it creates a conflict that leads to many self-contradictions couched in the language of self-justification.  We are seeing it again in recent years among what once were considered conservative Evangelicals such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, both of whom try to call themselves "Christian atheists," and also Frank Schaeffer (son of renown Protestant theologian Francis A. Schaeffer), who at one time was conservative (he was also a convert to the Orthodox Church in the early 1990's, but did so more with an axe to grind rather than a real conversion experience, as his fruit demonstrates later) but now identifies as an "atheist who believes in God."  Much like Robinson and many earlier elites, Schaeffer, McLaren, and Bell (among many others!) are using self-justification to make self-contradictory statements.  Robinson is referenced in response to another liberal theologian named Paul M. van Buren (1924-1998),  whom we'll examine more in-depth now.

Paul M. van Buren (1924-1998)

Dr. van Buren was, like Robinson and Mascall, an Anglican who was a theologian and author that taught at Temple University for close to 22 years.   He was a self-styled proponent of "secular Christianity" who studied under Karl Barth, and of interest as well was that he was married to Armenian-American art scholar Anne Hagopian (1927-2008).  This means that in all practical applications van Buren was a glorified atheist.  Mascall, on page 41, takes the opportunity to note what van Buren means by "secularism":  he defines it as "a loose designation of the reation to the Idealism of the last century," and that "both modern so-called Biblical theology and modern so-called analytic philosophey are responses to secularism," both quotes of which Mascall references from van Buren's book The Secular Meaning of the Gospel, which he authored in 1963.   Mascall makes a few observations of his own on this, noting that the verbiage van Buren utilizes could be taken both positive and negative; however secularism is understood, in other words, Biblical theology and analytical philosophy are allied reactions against it.  This now bears a couple of my own observations before moving forward.  

Van Buren's views as stated are neither original nor novel, as this drivel has been heard before.  It goes back to William of Ockham, who in rejecting universals and advancing nominalism denied that absolute truth existed, but rather was only "names," much as van Buren would say "so-called Biblical theology."  This in turn reflected the earlier Averroist approach that natural reason is superior to revelation - therefore, if taken according to van Buren, it creates a reaction and conflict from Revelation against reason, a false division that only early Averroist philosophers advanced.  This then leads to Marsilus of Padua's assertion that the "greatest good" could be divorced totally from divine Revelation, and in doing so a secularist, temporal "good" was desirable to a supernatural anagogical outlook, and thus those like Marsilus subjugated Biblical scholarship then to civil power (Wiker and Hahn, Politicizing the Bible, pp. 25-27, 51).  This subjugation would inevitably provoke the reaction van Buren talked about, and thus the reaction was seen by those like van Buren as negative, and that is the way he should be understood (as Mascall does) when his words are read.  In other words, a traditional faith then would be seen in opposition to and a reaction against the "progress" of secularism, and for the theologian or philosopher this meant redefining what they understood in line with the secular march of progress.  Here is the problem however - God is rightly seen by the Christian as the originator of both the natural and supernatural order, and thus God has established certain standards which are indeed universal to all humanity.  Morality, as well as looking beyond oneself to something greater, is an integral part of the human identity, and thus any attempt to divorce that will come up incomplete and short.  And, for a theologian or Biblical scholar to propose conformity of religion and Biblical hermeneutics to secularism is unthinkable.  We see this type of thinking couched in "conservative" language by people such as Merold Westphal (born 1940) who outrightly (and also incorrectly) notes that tradition is "fallible," and he is not talking about the "traditions of men" either that are condemned in Scripture!  In his book Whose Community? Which Interpretation (Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic, 2009), Westphal asserts that tradition is inherent with what he calls "prejudices," with some being "true prejudices" that are legitimate and enabling, and some being "false prejudices" which are illegitimate and misleading.  The former are understood, according to Westphal, while the latter are misunderstood.  All tradition - in particular the "prejudices" incubated by it - is necessarily subject to revision and replacement, in Westphal's view (Westphal, pp. 75-76).  There is an inherent problem with this from the standpoint of the Catholic Christian - essentially, if one follows Westphal's reasoning, then any aspect of Tradition is open to being labeled as a "prejudice" and thus is subject to the arbitrary whims of its possessor to be revised and replaced, and this means that even long-held truths cannot escape this process.  This is the root problem with secularization too - many traditional "prejudices" are seen by the secularist as in need of either revision or replacement, and thus they are radically redefined to fit into the secularist scheme.  Taking a loose and arbitrary role like this when it comes to doctrine and the Deposit of Faith is dangerous, and it is an inherent problem in modern society too.  We see how bizarre and insane this can get just by looking at what the phenomenon of "political correctness" has impacted;  some fairly concrete and indisputable (and tangible!) things such as gender, race, and even the idea of marriage have now arbitrarily been revised and replaced based on a mentality like Westphal proposes in which gender is seen essentially as a "prejudice" in need of revision - now if a man feels like a woman, he becomes one.  Or, if a White person thinks they are Black, then they are.  The fact that anatomy and physiology say otherwise is now irrelevant - anatomy and physiology have become in essence understood (or "true") prejudices that need revision.   And, unfortunately this is the end result of Ockham, van Buren, and Westphal when their rationalizations and proposals are fully realized.  And, it also shows the catastrophic impact that unchecked secularism can have on both Church and society. 

A notable contrast to the thought of van Buren is noted in Mascall's text using the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).  In making a point, a quote on page 41 of Mascall's text of Bonhoeffer asserts that God himself drives us to the realization that man can exist without him.  As Mascall notes, Bonhoeffer (who was martyred by the Nazis) may have on one hand been feeling an abandonment by God, similar to Job in the Bible, and that would be only natural and should not therefore be taken at face value.  As Mascall points out on page 42 however, the absurdity of taking this statement out of context or at face value is dishonest, in that man cannot believe in God and then live as if he doesn't exist (especially in Bonhoeffer's situation in a dank Nazi prison).  When Bonhoeffer was facing certain death in a Nazi prison, for instance, it would be my assertion that his humanity was trying to come to terms with the fact God exists yet allows something like his situation to happen, and it is also my assertion that Bonhoeffer was sorting out his thoughts as he was writing.  Bonhoeffer was by no means a conservative theologian in the same sense as Francis Schaeffer, but at the same time adversity does tend to make one come face-to-face with his own condition, and this is what I believe Bonhoeffer was doing.  To take those words at face value then, as van Buren seems to be doing and as other liberal theologians have done since, makes absolutely no sense in light of the context of Bonhoeffer's overall situation.  The fact that Bonhoeffer died for his convictions speaks volumes in that regard, and it is very possible that any inhibitions he may have had in his own theology were quickly realized and addressed as his fate became more real - he possibly even may have had some conversion experience that may not have been documented.  I actually have a copy of Bonhoeffer's book Ethics, which was a text in a Theology of Ethics course I had back in 2012, and it merits a re-read for a study such as this, and perhaps more can be reflected upon it later.  Sufficive to say, the Christian faith cannot be lived inconsistently, in that one must live what one professes, and it is the natural fruit of action following confession, especially to the devout believer.  

Mascall then makes an excellent and brilliant observation of what Bonhoeffer was really saying - Bonhoeffer's words can be also interpreted as meaning that God tells us at times that we must live at times without any consciousness of His presence; we know He is there, but just don't know where.  This actually makes perfect sense in that context in that it affirms what Scripture tells us in Hebrews 11:1 when it defines faith as being "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  The point Mascall is making here, I think, is that the secularized theologian like van Buren is either dismissing or missing totally the one catalytic element in the whole equation - faith!  Faith for us is often lived in mystery - we know certain things, but are often unable to tangibly point to them or articulate them.  Things such as the Sacraments, the Incarnation of Christ Himself, etc.  These are things we know and believe to be true, yet they transcend human reason and therefore they are beyond the scope of scientific inquiry - they are the realm of the metaphysical rather than the physical.  However, though they are beyond reach of human understanding and scientific inquiry, it doesn't make them any less real; science cannot explain everything, in other words, and there are some areas where the scientific method just doesn't apply.  For the secularist, this is difficult to grasp, in that reason for them has to determine everything, and therefore faith is irrelevant.   However, this is not the teaching of the Church - in Christian theology, faith and reason are complementary, not contradictory, and the purpose of both has their origins in God, who made both.  Aquinas taught this extensively, and therefore it presents the Christian with a fuller worldview that also provides explanation for the seemingly inexplicable.  The secularist misses this, in that everything for the secularist must be defined by naturalism and reason, and faith for the secularist is beyond reason and thus somehow must be in conflict with it.  And, with an Averroist understanding of faith being subordinate to reason, the secularist then would say that faith therefore doesn't necessarily exist, in that it is merely a reaction against change and must be "revised" or "replaced" in order to make sense.  This is not in line with traditional Christian teaching however, in that faith and reason both have as their source God, and therefore neither contradicts the other.  Once this basic understanding is reached, then faith no longer is a problem, and it works with reason.  

This discussion will pick up next time, as the secularization of society will be seen as it impacts segments of Christianity, and the catastrophic consequences of that impact will be examined in the future as we continue this discussion. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Secularization of Christianity Part VIII - Repercussions on Secularization of Society on the Church

In concluding the first chapter of Mascall's The Secularization of Christianity, there are a few small notes I wanted to add myself in regard to what Mascall is saying, as he is addressing an important but fundamental issue that has more relevance some 50 years after he originally wrote the text than it even did at his time.  In 1965, when Mascall's book was published, the effects of secularization were starting to be felt, which in turn were the culmination of many years of gradual influence of Enlightenment-era rationalism as well as other secularizing factors.  These factors primarily impacted the society at large, but they also began to make inroads into Christianity as well - we saw that with discussions of Scheiermacher, Bultmann, and other secularized liberal theologians and Bible "experts" in the 18th and 19th centuries, and we still continue to see it today in a greater capacity than ever.  This is why now I want to offer a few observations to preface the final section of Mascall's first chapter, as they will sort of "set the stage" for what he discusses as well.

Traditional Christianity has in the past faced two major foes, one being secularism and the other being reactionary mysticism and legalism in the form of heresies and false religions.   The two are actually diametrically opposed to each other, but when it comes to their attacks on traditional Christianity, they almost seem to work together.  The most evident example of this was in the 19th century, when society and the Christian Church both experienced a wave of secularism which diminished the influence of the latter and radically transformed the former.  Enlightenment-era rationalism succeeded in separating faith from reason and theology from philosophy, a separation which in previous generations was incomprehensible.  The result was the rise in such things as social Darwinism, as well as Freudian psychology and Marxist political thought and economic theory.  Each of these sought to make Spinoza's vision of confining religion to "its proper place" a reality by discrediting faith and instead practically deifying science and natural reason, and therefore religious identity was all but gutted from society.  Now, herein lies the problem - man was created to be a religious creature, and when man is denied true faith, it leaves a void for counterfeits.   This led to a rise in fascination with occultism in the 19th century, as "Spiritualism" became a parlor fad for the Victorian upper-crust and thus provided a filling of the void left by the excising of Christianity from societal influence.  "Spiritualism," as Nichols, Mather, and Schmidt note in their Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2006) on page 281, noted that the 19th century was an age of romanticism, characterized by a pathos, feeling, and existential longing, which in turn fostered the revival of interest in the occult.  The Darwinist-infused rationalism of the time, which had begun to infiltrate Christianity as well, didn't leave room for the questions of life, such as what happens after death, etc.  Until this time, Christianity had given answers to those things, but once Christianity was diminished and secularized, people looked elsewhere for answers, and of course Satan is only too happy to oblige.  Even Darwinian thought was incorporated into this new fascination with the occult, as was seen in people such as Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), who founded the cult of Theosophy in order to seek the application of reason and wisdom to the quest of knowledge of divine matters (Nichols, Mather, and Schmidt, p. 291).  People like Blavatsky took concepts such as the Hindu belief in reincarnation, transformed them in Darwinian evolutionary terms, and thus Darwinian evolution was seen by such occultists as a natural step toward "godhood."  Although strict secularists and rationalists dismissed Blavatsky and those like her (and, in many cases, they lumped orthodox Christianity in with it) as bunk, what many such people failed to realize was that Blavatsky and others were appealing to something very fundamental to human nature, that being a supernatural dimension.  Unfortunately, what started with Blavatsky would tragically end in 1945 with the wanton destruction wreaked by the Nazis, who would use this racially-based occultism to launch one of the most evil and murderous regimes of the 20th century, and it all started with the secularization of the Enlightenment.  We then saw the same thing happen in the 1960's again, when secularists attempted to remove God, prayer, and the Bible from American schools and thus opened the way for a counterculture which turned American society on its ear, and from which we still haven't recovered (if anything, it's getting worse).  But, in recent years, this trend has taken another direction.

With the growing secularization and moral decline of the West, the unfortunate result is a culture which devalues life to such a degree that abominations such as abortion are adversely affecting populations of Western nations.  Again, this has created a void, and the same problem is evident in that man wants to reach beyond himself in order to satisfy the questions related to the supernatural in his life.  Being Christianity has been sidelined, discredited, and marginalized in much of contemporary society these days, people are beginning to look elsewhere - the appeal of the occult is still evident, as seen in the activities of such demigodlike celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, but with a declining population, a physical void has been created as well that needs to be filled, and what is filling it is a flood of immigrants from parts of the world where religion and culture are seen as inseparable, but in this case the consequences could be catastrophic.  What I am referring to of course is the rise of Islam.  Islam, due to its heretical appropriation of some Judeo-Christian elements within its belief system, is starting to unfortunately provide a popular alternative to the waning influence of the Christian Church, and the way it is doing so is not only through waves of immigration, but also through a rich picking of American converts.  Many of these converts see morality as a major concern, yet they don't like Christianity - Islam gives a moral code, and thus attracts these types of people.  However, it is a false moral code, and a closer examination of Islamic doctrine would reveal glaring inconsistencies in its system.  Oddly, the very forces of secularization that have sidelined Christianity are throwing the doors open and laying out a welcome mat for Islam, and that is where a problem arises.  In Robert Ferrigno's 2006 fictional novel Prayers for the Assassin, the plot of the story is a scenario where much of America becomes an Islamic "republic," and in the pages of the novel Ferrigno presents a scenario as to how it happened.  This background scenario begins on page 23 of the book, where a fictional American President, in the wake of an era of violent terrorism, takes the Oath of Office on a Quran instead of the traditional Bible, and in doing so it is a climax to a climate where, as Ferrigno writes, a societal collapse left open a spiritual void that Islam stepped into - as he writes, "the moral certainty of Islam was the perfect antidote to the empty bromides of the churches, and the corruption of the political class" (Ferrigno, Prayers for the Assassin.  New York: Pocket Books, 2006. p. 22).  Those "empty bromides" are in essence the fruits of secularization that were cultivated in the 19th century, and led to a moral and spiritual vacuum.  When that happened, in Ferrigno's fictional scenario a fanatical religious substitute such as Islam stepped in to meet the need left by the banishment of the Gospel.  And, Ferrigno's quote from the book is telling - "moral certainty."  There are certain universal norms, which the Bible has canonized in the Decalogue and elsewhere, which we as Christians believe were established by God as part of the natural order He created.  So, when you have the secularist coming along trying to divorce that, people are going to find that life doesn't make a lot of sense without them and thus they seek alternatives.  And, that is why secularization is dangerous.

It is apparent from the discussion that over the centuries the Church has had three enemies who seek its destruction and disappearance from public life - secularism, occultic mysticism, and Islam.  While that may not sound "politically correct" and may appear simplistic, the evidence suggests that the first often paves the way for one of the other two.  Reason is, these two false religious systems provide flawed substitutes that seem to fill a need for those who lack certain things that secularism abolishes - the occult provides a supernatural dimension, while Islam provides a system of morality, both of which are integral to the spiritual dimension of human existence.  The problem with Islam and the occult both though is that both belief systems are incomplete at best and dangerous at worst - both, if allowed to have full influence in a society, allow for death and oppression.  We seen what the occult does when unchecked in the regime of Nazi Germany, and in recent times we see in Iran and also the murderous reign of both ISIS and the Taliban what Islam is capable of.  Only an authentic, traditional, and balanced Christianity can provide the real dimensions of morality and recognition of the supernatural, and the Gospels provide the perfect model for both.  The problem is though is that secularism is at its core about self-gratification, and if morality and the supernatural hinder personal happiness for the secularist, they must be eradicated.  And, when that happens, a void is left, and in time something needs to fill it, and hence systems such as Islam and the occult come along to create an inferior substitute to fill the void left by the eradication of Judeo-Christian faith.  At this point, we now turn back to Mascall's text. 

As Mascall points out on page 35, even theologians who are secularized (in this case he references J.A.T. Robinson and Paul Van Buren, who we had discussed earlier) are making false allegations that traditional Christian theology is somehow "narrow and sterile" and thus in need of reinterpretation (a "fresh approach," they say).   Mascall says that the problem of such approaches is that they tend to conform to the alleged demands of twentieth-century secularized man, and thus more than eager to discard the accumulated wisdom of centuries of Christian belief, ignoring its profound insights and even to the point of discarding the concerns of all religious faith, Christian and non-Christian.  As Mascall elaborates, the root problem is not trying to present the Gospel in language that is relevant and intelligible, but it reflects something much deeper - the secularist is trying to banish Christian faith from the public square essentially, and seeks to do so by couching it it in criptive "contemporary language" in order to diminish it and eventually make it irrelevant.   This leads Mascall to conclude the chapter with the central problem that he feels is at the core of the discussion.

Beginning on page 36, Mascall notes that while some formulations of Christian doctrine may differ, the core substance of it must be preserved.  It is not so much an issue of development of doctrine, he notes, than it is a development of doctrinal formulations and implications.  This leads to the central issue - if the formulations differ, how can the specifics of substance be retained and recognized?  Theology is rightly seen, as Mascall notes, as an essential function of the Church as the Body of Christ, and as such no theologian has the right to change the substance of it.  A theologian, it is noted, can express the substance in relevant language of the time, but the integrity of the substance has to be maintained.  The problem with much of post-Enlightenment liberal theology is that it often changes the substance because much of the wisdom of the Christian Tradition is often beyond natural reason - it has a supernatural dimension, in other words, which cannot be expressed adequately in human discourse.  The problem for the secularized theologian though is that he only sees this through the eyes of natural reason, and what he can't comprehend is not worth his time - this cuts out or at best diminishes the supernatural dimension of the Christian faith.  And, when that happens, the Christian faith is then stripped of something vital, and it can no longer serve the seeker of truth, and thus said seeker has to look elsewhere - as noted above, that often leads to demonic deception and the occult.  Also, without the moral boundaries of the Christian faith, which the secularist sees as constricting, there are no absolutes, and things end up becoming defined by the whims and fancies of those who encounter them.  This is very evident in today's society, where now a man who is biologically a man can now redefine himself as a "woman" simply because he "feels like it."  It also causes confusion in society when this moral breakdown happens, because then human life is devalued, and killing for the sake of convenience (such as in abortion and euthanasia) becomes the new norm.  Unfortunately, there is somewhere at the core of human identity something that instinctively knows these moral "upgrades" are somehow not right, but a conditioned denial and rejection of Judeo-Christian worldview (often over several generations) rules out the Church as a place for answers to questions, and thus the seeker begins to look elsewhere for a morality - often, unfortunately, such a person finds it in radical Islam.  This therefore gives a new impetus to the "jihad" mentality of the Muslim, and now the kafir for the Islamic zealot becomes the secularist, and it opens a new realm to be converted to "Allah's will."  However, if that is fully implemented, a far more repressive moral climate than Christianity ever advocated is imposed, and it causes some tragic problems for the society that capitulates to the Islamic model as well.  The secularist, then, essentially signs his own death warrant when he opens the door for either occultic mysticism or extreme Islamic Sharia.  

In quoting a speech he gave in 1962 at King's College, London, on page 37 Mascall notes that the theologian's motto should never be "it all depends on me," but rather he should realize that he is part of something greater than himself and that he is a custodian and heir to a rich Christian tradition that spans centuries.  While a fresh contribution is warranted and even noble, it is also important that the Christian theologian exercise humility and care with that which he has been entrusted.  As Mascall puts it, a theologian is to "theologize within a great historical tradition."  To elaborate with my own reflections upon what Mascall has said, essentially a true theologian doesn't question doctrine, nor does he find ways to oppose what he finds uncomfortable within centuries of the Deposit of Faith.  Rather, the theologian is a contributor to that rich tradition, maybe even bringing fresh insight on certain things that maybe past generations may not have been ready to see, yet is consistent with the body of doctrine and Tradition the theologian studies.  The root problem of the secularist who tries to play theologian is this - he tries to redefine and divorce theology from its moorings, and in essence strips it of essential things because he as an individual finds such things "unpalatable."  When that happens, unfortunately, we have established that it renders the Church powerless, and unable to engage the culture, thus opening up the door for some belief system that will, often with catastrophic consequences.  Many people in the field of theology today, even among some Catholic and Protestant Evangelical circles, forget this - they think that open-mindedness and dialogue with opposing views is true "theologizing," yet they fail in this because if you open the mind too far, things fall out, and if you act too conciliatory with one's enemy, it leads to conversion to your enemy's view, and thus one forfeits being an authentic Christian theologian.  Same is true in Biblical studies as well, which often overlaps and addresses may of the same concerns.  This then wraps up Mascall's opening chapter on secularization of Christianity, and hopefully in future discussions we can delve further into the issues.