Thursday, March 11, 2010

Victorian Christian Orthodoxy

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 to 1834) believed adamently in divine revelation of the Bible. However he placed great faith in the importance of the church. "My fixed Principle," he said, "is: that a Christianity without a church exercising spiritual authority is vanity and dissolution." He felt though that loyalty to the truth itself was paramount. "He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all."
It was a Coleridgean maxim that men are mostly right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny.
Frederick Denison Maurice (1805 to 1872) observed that the general of thinking in theology and philosophy was "their mistake was to assert their own truth exclusively against others." This is a thought more common in today's ecumenical Christianity than in the rationalism of Victorian days.
Maurice would eventually be expelled from his King's College professorship for his essay, "Eternal life and eternal death". Victorians loved the images of 'eternal' damnation with all the beastly burning and torture and weren't willing to give this up. Yet Maurice argued that "eternal life' was not an expression of 'duration' in the earthly sense of time but rather a spiritual statement of "knowing God and Jesus Christ". Similiarly "eternal death" referred not to the worldly caricature of a hapless hell but rather the theological meaning of "separation from God". Both were "present realities".
Modern day ,Phillips in "Your God is too small" speaks to the "love' of God over the 'fear' of God and quite frankly says that it mustn't be a very attractive God that must be sought only out of fear. Certainly the movement of the "Love of Jesus" in Biblical sense is from the quaking fear of the reality of the Old Testament "judgemental" God to the Good News of Gospel.
The idea of Spiritual Laws as referenced in the 10 Commandments and Sermon on the Mount is that like Physical Laws 'breaking the rules' ie 'ignoring gravity' come with consequences. They're inherent in this 'World' but not a 'punishment' in the sense that the Greeks and Romans thought of their pantheon of emotionally labile deities.
Maurice argued with Pusey that we are born to Christ and baptism is the sign that we are whereas Pusey felt it was only through the sacrament of baptism could a person be 'rescued' from the demonic nature of the world. I'm again reading the Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl who survived Auschwitz and went on to write "Man's Search for Meaning".
It seems today that questions of first principles are ignored and avoided while a kind of tremendous leming like energy is devoted to various business enterprises without question of their validity or ultimate aim or even the origins. It's fascinating to read of the Victorians struggling with these central keys to understanding. I'm sure that it occurs today. There's just this cacaphony of competing interests and as always God's voice seems 'wee and small."
Meanwhile caught up in the "business" of my life I fear I have so little time left for "listening". I hurry my meditation in the morning. I love that the American College has shown that specialists are now expected by law and demand to do 90 minutes of activity in 15 minutes slots of time. It's as if the State and the powers that be as always want us to be hamsters in a cage and running so that they can make more and more money off the sale of cages. It feels like that most days but then that's my doing. Hell and Heaven, as Maurice says aren't about the 'future' or even 'life after death' but rather, today will I or will I not choose to be connected to God and Jesus. Will I love today or live in fear. Will I be 'present' or 'distracted'.
Victorian Christian Orthodoxy remains as individual as universal. I pray today that I remain true.

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