Friday, December 09, 2016

Peterson on Tradition



In the previous post, there was a very interesting segment where Jordan Peterson expounds on the relationship between dogma and innovation. I think this is a very important segment since it highlights a problem that many Rightists miss. While it is quite easy to recognise the errors of liberalism, a rigid Traditionalism is just as toxic.

It's this blogs' contention that Traditionalists were the midwifes of the modern world. By placing Tradition above Truth, the Traditionalists ensured that doctrinal developments which would have given the Faith the capacity to combat the modern world were left stillborn.  Notice how Peterson formulates the the need to be vigilant and observant, and to update Tradition in accordance with the Truth, not fashion or preference.

A good example of this tension between Tradition and Truth is currently at play in the Catholic Church. While I'm not an enthusiastic fan of Francis, and am fully aware of the indissolubility of marriage, there does appear to be at least some Biblical legitimacy for "non mortal" divorce. There is a predictable pushback from the Conservatives against the Pope which I find hilarious, as these same Conservatives were the ones who previously insisted on the need for the faithful to be obedient on the grounds of Papal Authority alone. As I've said before, the Liberals are the easy to identify villains, the less obvious ones are Conservatives, who stop any form of doctrinal development and regard the faith as complete.

The segment in question can be found here.

18 comments:

Cecil Henry said...

Nobody on the right misses the dangers of traditionalism. But we have 100 years of utopian envy driven communism AND still a Canadian prime minister praises a communist dictator for his 'achievements in health care'. Lenin and Stalin are not names of the grossest opprobrium-- indeed few know them. The blindness of the left is every growing. This kind of excuse making in the name of being 'balanced' is every bit as much a danger. Stop it.

MK said...

SP, There is a predictable pushback from the Conservatives against the Pope which I find hilarious, as these same Conservatives were the ones who previously insisted on the need for the faithful to be obedient on the grounds of Papal Authority alone.

Trads I read are very reasonable and intelligent on Francis, papal authority, and marriage issues. Example: http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/authors.cfm?authorid=3. Your commentary seems to be projection without any examples of who the offender is or what they've done.

Myself, while less conservative than most of my fellow trads, tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt here, Francis included. No heresy or persecution? No problem. The problem most cons have with Francis is he's just muddying the water. Read the article above.

Liberals are the easy to identify villains, the less obvious are Conservatives, who stop any form of doctrinal development and regard the faith as complete.

But why are conservatives "villains"? Liberals certainly are, because they persecute and are in active heresy. While I often disagree with fellow RC who lean conservative, I say: let them do their own thing, no skin off my nose. No heresy, no problem. When Francis teaches with authority, conservatives I know will follow. So far, he's just cowardly preaching BS.

Where I live, there is a constant drumbeat of people attacking conservatives. Cons have no power themselves, nor any inclination to fight, but have withdrawn. Which seems to drive everyone crazy. Gotta have those evil heartless conservative around to attack when the more liberal methods fail!

Ingemar said...

Everyone who 10 years were like "BXVI is going to save the Catholic Church" are now all like "Shut up about Francis you ultramontanist!"

The Social Pathologist said...

@Cecil Henry

I think the Right has been totally oblivious to the dangers of Traditionalism. In fact, a lot of failure of the Right to mount an effective response to the Left can be attributed to the dominance of Traditionalist thought in the Right. When you're losing for a century at the hands of a bunch of losers like the Left, the realisation should be that you're doing something wrong.

By the way, it's not about being "balanced", it's about being right.

@Ingemar.

I gotta laugh. The Trads turned out to be Cafeteria Catholics for all their talk of obedience to the Pope. i.e. Pope is legitimate only when he agrees with their views. Perhaps they should compare notes with Spong on the subject of Papal authority.

MK said...

SP, The Trads turned out to be Cafeteria Catholics for all their talk of obedience to the Pope. i.e. Pope is legitimate only when he agrees with their views. Perhaps they should compare notes with Spong on the subject of Papal authority.

The trads I know were not pope fans, nor bishop fans. They liked JP2 & B2 (even though both were quite liberal on tradition) just because they stood against the liberal train wreck. Much like conservatives today "like" liberal Trump (the enemy of my enemy is my friend).

Remember, there are a million SSPX who think every pope since VII is a heretic. Trads I know is not big on authority at all, just tradition. That's why trads are called...drumroll...Trads! And why so many trads go Eastern Orthodox or SSPX without pause.

My first pass here is to guess your (and Ingemar's response) comes out of a liberal physiological projection, not an honest assessment of trads and their weaknesses. I've noted it drives liberals nuts to be accused of moral deviance, I think because liberals are so authoritarian themselves. Trads tend to not care what anyone thinks of them and operate alone within families. They have always been more Prot than not.

Edmund Campion said...

By placing Tradition above Truth, the Traditionalists ensured that doctrinal developments which would have given the Faith the capacity to combat the modern world were left stillborn.

What doctrinal developments are you referring to here? I'm curious.

The Trads turned out to be Cafeteria Catholics for all their talk of obedience to the Pope. i.e. Pope is legitimate only when he agrees with their views. Perhaps they should compare notes with Spong on the subject of Papal authority.

I think you may be confusing Trads with Conservative (or "Neoconservative") Catholics. In Catholicism, Trads have been pretty famous for disagreeing with the past few popes and maintaining that not every statement the Pope makes is binding.

The Social Pathologist said...

@MK

You've got me wrong. It's not about being a Papal fan rather its about the relationship of Papal Teaching to the Truth. Tradition, insofar as it conforms to the Truth is perfectly legitimate, the problem with Trads is that they raise Tradition above the Truth. I can understand the appeal of SSPX and the Orthodox Church to many. You're not going to get any "novelties" in these religions, however, do they encapsulate all that God has to say to the human race? Have they fully plumbed the depths of the faith?

In many ways the Trads are like the Pharisees, who knew it all. If you look at the interactions between them (the Pharisees) and Christ, you see that Christ introduced several novelties which infuriated them because it was not part of their tradition. They were expecting a Messiah on their terms. God, however, had other ideas.

Take a look at the current controversy re Amoris Letitia. I'm no big fan of the document for a variety or reasons. And my own line of reasoning sure as hell points towards the indissolubility of marriage. But perhaps God doesn't operate on the fact of logic alone, and perhaps some other factors such as mercy, or the understanding of human weakness, permits reception of sacraments when not "objectively" in a state of Grace. Perhaps God tolerates, a bit of wickedness in men given their fallen nature in order to save them. I'm prepared to entertain the idea, yet, the door is closed by both the Trads and the Conservatives.

By the way, there is no projection involved. Rather, my position comes from attempting to understand why the Right has "lost" in the 20th Century. These aren't novel ideas. Maurice Blondel, a French Theologian, came pretty much to the same conclusion over a hundred years ago. He saw that the Church was in deep trouble and felt that the actions of Pius X were going make things a whole lot worse. He nearly got excommunicated for his efforts finally being called to help Church when it realised that it had miscalculated with regard to Action Francaise.

Edmund Campion said...

@SP, "[D]o they encapsulate all that God has to say to the human race? Have they fully plumbed the depths of the faith?"

At the risk of responding for MK, Traditionalist or Orthodox would say, "Yes". Indeed any serious Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox must believe as much. I quote St John of the Cross on Hebrews 1:1-2: "In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word - and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty." Also, John 16:13, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth." This is the traditional teaching of Christianity.

The problem with reception of communion by the divorced and remarried is precisely that they aren't divorced and remarried. They would be co-habitating in an adulterous union. Now, one in a state of mortal sin may not receive Holy Communion without recourse to Confession. Again quoting, "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord."

So, if the divorced-and-remarried individual wishes to receive Communion, there is an available route. The confession of his sins and absolution of them.

The problem comes in when someone wishes to remain in their sin while also wanting to receive Communion. In this situation, they cannot be said to be repentant because they are not willing to quit the sin they are still engaged in. Thus the traditional treatment of this situation. Which, mind you, goes back much further than some late 20th Century followers of the SSPX. One cannot propose a different treatment of the situation unless one disagrees with some proposition along the chain of logic. However, every chain is a dogma, often found in Scripture itself, so... Teachings of indissolubility of marriage, worthy reception of Communion, mortal sin, etc., all affect this judgment. One must adhere to Tradition in order to be faithful to the Truth. That tends to be the reason for Trad/Conservative "rigidity" rather than remaking God in their own image.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Edmund

Thanks for dropping by.

I don't think you can cleanly delineate between Trads and Conservatives, since there is a considerable overlap. BTW, I'm not talking about SSPX which are in schism. I'm talking about the factions within the Catholic Church.

The Conservatives, and I'm using this in the broadest sense of the term, have always emphasised the authoratative nature of the Papal office and of the need to obey the Pope, they were the ones who really pushed the Obsequium Religiosum, so I find it somewhat amusing to see them have "reservations" when they hear something that they don't like. I think the great legacy of the Francis papacy will be seeing the new appreciation Conservatives will have with regard to "conscience".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsequium_religiosum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magisterium

By the way. Amoris Letitia is an authoritative document.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/vatican-newspaper-amoris-laetitia-authoritative-church-teaching

As for doctrinal teachings, I think the biggest failure has been Humanae Vitae. No other document has destroyed practical adherence to Church teaching. And it's not primarily because of its ban on contraception, but because of the medieval physiology it brings to the table. The fact that every act must be open to the possibility of conception is repudiated by natural revelation. Namely, that there is an infertile phase of the menstrual cycle where conjugal acts, done in a licit manner, are intrinsically incapable of generating life. The traditional work around for this problem is that periods are "unintended privations", which on deeper reflection leads to the conclusion that God made a mistake. Big, big theological problems with that position.

Secondly, I think the Church's understanding of the subject of Eros, has contributed greatly to problems of gender fluidity. I think JPII was indirectly alluding to this when he said we needed a Theology of the Body, though I don't think he was intellectually up to the task.

Thirdly, flowing on from this is an understanding of the "rights of human nature". The "blank slate" argument is predicated upon the notion that reason can override nature. And that education can therefore render it irrelevant. Nature has some rights. I mean a lot of the appeal of Tradition lays in the fact that it synch's with human nature. You shore up traditional practices when you realise that they feed real human needs.

Fourthly, in the economic sphere, Rerum Novarum was a good start but it needs to be developed. Samuel Gregg has been doing a lot of good work trying to rehabilitate Capitalism within the Catholic tradition. "Preference for the poor" should not be confused with a "preference for poverty."

There are other areas but these are the main ones I can see at the moment.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Edmund

Let me get this straight. The Apostles were fully aware of the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Triune Nature of God ad the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility at the time of Christ. Or do these truths become intuitively apparent when a believer gazes upon the Cross?
Then, of course, there is St Thomas, who towards the end of his life had a mystical vision whereby he realised he hadn't even scratched the surface when it came to God.

Sorry, but if it were all apparent by simply comprehending the all that was said on the Cross then there would be no need for a teaching body, Papacy or any tradition whatsoever since the faithful would have intuitively grasped all these things. The bottom line is that God is infinite and human minds are finite. We simply can't fit him into our heads.

The problem with reception of communion by the divorced and remarried is precisely that they aren't divorced and remarried. They would be co-habitating in an adulterous union. Now, one in a state of mortal sin may not receive Holy Communion without recourse to Confession. Again quoting, "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord."

That's all quite correct and I don't dispute any of it. However, there is Judgement and there is Judgement. It's not a question about whether or not the the unworthy recipient of communion is guilty, the questions that I feel need to be answered is;

How do you square the Church's teaching with the previous Mosaic Law, which Christ came to uphold, which taught that divorce was permissible.How come Christ didn't "Judge" the woman caught in adultery.....it's not like she was pleading to him for mercy. By all accounts, Him being "soft" on her would encourage others to sin. Clearly, she was caught in adultery, and Christ was without sin, and so by all rights He should have cast the first stone......yet he didn't. Tradition teaches that adulterers will go to Hell, so, at least in this instance, Christ was not being Traditional.

My own view is that there is adultery and there is adultery. My own, personal view, is that there probably exists like in all cases of sin, circumstances which mitigate the deserts attributable to the sin. When I mediate on Cross, I see that Christ is willing to take hits for the team in order to save them. God didn't have to go through a painful torture to save us there could have been other methods to save us, but the mode of his crucifixion shows that he's prepared to go the extra mile to save us. Perhaps, there are certain circumstances, like spousal abandonment, where Christ is prepared to suffer for our salvation. Just my 2 cents but I don't think I pushing on Christian doctrine too hard.



Edmund Campion said...

@SP,
Thank you for having me.

First things first. The teachings of the Church come from Christ. The “deposit of faith” is the body of saving truth entrusted by Christ to the Apostles and handed on by them to be preserved and proclaimed. The Magisterium is simply the teaching authority of the Church (once again given by Christ) which serves to interpret that deposit of faith for the people. The "Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it." CCC86

I think an excellent (though long) treatment of the nature of the Magisterium can be found here by philosopher Ed Feser:
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/11/papal-fallibility.html

One of the biggest problems with regarding the "pro-adultery" parts of Amoris Laetitia as binding is they are mostly hinted at. It would suggest a matter of teaching authority as discerning the internal mind and feelings of the Pope. As of yet, there is no magisterial indication of how it is to be understood. Hence, the 4 Cardinal's Dubia. This is one of the big complaints from Traditionalists and many Conservatives about Pope Francis, that he goes about promoting things by whispers, subterfuge, ambiguities, silence, and mixed signals.

Anyhow, obedience is not to the Pope per se but to Divine Revelation or the Church. The Pope exists as a guardian of that revelation and the earthly head of that Church. The Pope can promulgate the teachings of the Church and he can authoritatively settle disputes in the Church, but he is not the Church.

It is important to note that the Pope can err. Popes of the past have been condemned for being heretics. Not everything a Pope says is part of the Magisterium. Indeed, not all parts of the Magisterium are infallible. These parts a Catholic may dissent from, sometimes publicly as well as privately.

I responded to your comment above (Have they fully plumbed the depths of the faith?) because it seemed to suggest that new teachings may be discovered in a later age. But this would not be the doctrinal development of which Cardinal Newman spoke. The binding teachings of the Church either fall under A) statements which definitively put forward divinely revealed truths, or B) statements which are closely connected with or clarify divinely revealed truths. A truly "new teaching" would require that either A) the previous, contradictory teaching was wrong, or B) public revelation was not fully completed in the person of Christ.

This is why I differentiated Trads from Conservatives. Its a running joke over the years about the unquestioning obedience of Conservatives to whatever opinions the current successor of St Peter holds. Trads have been making those distinctions about "conscience" and "obedience" for quite a long time and have, rather famously, caught a lot of flak from "Neoconservative" and liberal Catholics for doing so.

One of the common allusions thrown about is to Rex Mottram's conversion classes in Brideshead Revisted: Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: "Just as many as you say, Father."

'Then again I asked him: "Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said 'It's going to rain', would that be bound to happen?" "Oh, yes, Father." "But supposing it didn't?" He thought a moment and said, "I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it."

Edmund Campion said...

SP: How do you square the Church's teaching with the previous Mosaic Law, which Christ came to uphold, which taught that divorce was permissible[?]

Thus: "And it hath been said, Whoseoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery." Christ explicitly revoked it.

As to the story of the woman caught in adultery, she was told to "go and sin no more". Forgiveness is always predicated on repentance. Of course, Christ was very clear in condemning the unrepentant to hell.

As an aside, I'm afraid I don't understand your objection to Humanae Vitae. The teaching is that conception must not be intentionally thwarted by artificial means. That in no way implies “God made a mistake”.

God does tolerate "a bit of wickedness in men given their fallen nature in order to save them" since he graciously grants the Sacraments in this life and Purgatory in the next. Yet, clear Christian teaching from the Apostolic Age to this is that we must cooperate with God's grace for our salvation. Those who reject God cannot benefit from His graces because they have definitively rejected them. God is willing to do anything to save us. Indeed, He has. But He will not force Himself upon those who reject Him.

Additionally, this policy of admittance to Communion seems often predicated on the idea that, for some people, it is impossible to keep the Natural Law. However, this has already been anamathematized: If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema."

Edmund Campion said...

My apologies, dang it, I forgot this quote:

"CANON XI.-If any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains and declares, that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burdened with mortal sin, how contrite even soever they may think themselves. But if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated."

Combine this with the fact that valid absolution can't be given to an unrepentant sinner and I just don't see any way around it. This is undeniably an exercise of the infallible, extraordinary magisterium. Even disregarding this, it is definitely of higher authority than a vague footnote in a apostolic exhortation.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Edmund

The "deposit of the faith" is interpreted by the Church. In other words, there is a historical dimension to the understanding of this deposit. The Church does not invent new truths, but over time comes to better the discern the truths within that deposit. There is an evolving revelation through history, hence the development of doctrine over time. Hence, while the deposit may of been complete in itself, it understanding by human persons has evolved over time. Perhaps a better way of stating the development of doctrine is that doctrine develops with greater understanding of the deposit.

Given that Truth is non-contradictory clearly new doctrinal developments cannot contradict old, except insofar as old understanding of the faith was wrong. The Galileo case being such an instance.

Clearly, adulterous couples are committing adultery and hence they are are unworthy of communion. But there is the issue of the Mosaic law, which permitted divorce, which Jesus stated he came to uphold, and yet He clearly stated that it was not part of the divine plan, but "permitted" on the account of the hardness of people's hearts.
(Matthew 19:8) Now if Jesus came to change this aspect of Mosaic law, well he really wasn't upholding the law and was hence, lying. You can obviously see the problem with this.

Furthermore, with regard to the woman caught in adultery, there is no mention of her asking for mercy. Why the automatic application of it? Scripture doesn't give us any indication that she was even sorry for being caught. She may have been scared of being killed but, as far as I can tell, there is no evidence that she intended to change her ways. The line "Neither do I condemn you", makes no sense unless assumptions are made with regard to Christ's thinking. By all accounts, he should have condemned her. And its not like he couldn't condemn when he needed to.
There is obviously a tension between Justice and Mercy at play here. Likewise, with the Mosiac Law. Clearly God was not pleased with the practice of divorce yet mosaic law permitted it. What gives?

My own personal understanding is that there is adultery and there is adultery. Clearly, riding the carousel carry's a different moral weighting than a woman who is adulterous by virtue of the fact that she was abandoned by her husband, and out of loneliness enters a stable cohabiting relationship with a man. Yes, both are guilty of adultery but perhaps, given the circumstances, the second case deserves only venial punishment. Just a speculation.

As far as I'm concerned, this approach is far more honest, than the current "annulment" process which from my perspective is a farce.

The Social Pathologist said...

As for sex, you might be interested in this post.

http://socialpathology.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/the-teleology-of-coitus.html

Edmund Campion said...

Ok, it seems we agree on the development of doctrine. Although: except insofar as old understanding of the faith was wrong I would add the caveat that infallible acts of the Magisterium cannot be wrong per the infallibility of the Church. If something was "wrong", it was never declared infallibly. E.g. Galileo vs. the two natures of Christ.

Furthermore, with regard to the woman caught in adultery, there is no mention of her asking for mercy. Why the automatic application of it?
As to this, with any further explanation I fear we may be headed down a rabbit hole. Your recounting of the story of the woman caught in adultery seemed to be in service of an argument that the unrepentant may go to Heaven. Tradition teaches that adulterers will go to Hell, so, at least in this instance, Christ was not being Traditional. It was to this second sentence that I strongly objected. Why? Because: 1) Christ didn't tell her she could go to Heaven. 2) "There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit." CCC 1864

I don't apply the woman caught in adultery (yes, it was "mercy" but of a different temporal sort) to the Communion for the Unrepentant Sinners debate because giving Communion to an unrepentant sinner is not "mercy". As you acknowledged yourself, anyone receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin profanes the Body of the Lord and "eats and drinks judgment to himself". This is as much mercy as giving a severe allergic a jar of peanut butter.

I recognize your point as to the individual culpability of some individuals. But then the true pastoral response would be to relieve such an individual of such notions and instruct them in the right path! To say they can't do it, involves the anathema I cited above.

Scripture doesn't give us any indication that she was even sorry for being caught.
Yes, and she may never have been sorry for being caught. First, this is about a very temporal punishment (stoning) not eternal salvation. But Christ very obviously makes the command not to sin anymore. This is not what Cardinals Kasper or Schonborn would do. Presumably, they would say, "Neither do I condemn you. No go back to your lover, you can't really help it." The lack of the "sin no more" admonition is why I reject the Kasperite view of admission to Communion and why I chafe at their use of the woman caught in adultery story.

To clarify, my main contention is that adultery is undoubtedly a sin, as you seem to agree. Indeed, it is a grave sin. I take your comments as suggesting that certain adulterers are unable to cease their adultery for various reasons. Thus my first citation to Trent's anathemas. This it seems is where we part ways.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Edmund.

As to this, with any further explanation I fear we may be headed down a rabbit hole. Your recounting of the story of the woman caught in adultery seemed to be in service of an argument that the unrepentant may go to Heaven

No, that's not my argument. My argument is that certain people sin because the circumstances make it very hard for them not to and God cuts people some slack, depending on the circumstances. I think the whole point about the Passion and the Crucifixion is that God is prepared to suffer to save us, though I do think that there are limits. He could of saved man by Divine fiat yet chose the path of pain.

I think the interesting part about the whole woman caught in adultery episode is when Christ asks "Haven't any of your accusers condemned you?", He replies, "Neither do I. Now go and sin No more." On one hand, he doesn't condemn her, on the other he affirms that she was "wrong, but not going to get punished". Without knowing anything about the woman's circumstances or intentional state, we have to ask ourselves why did he not punish the woman who clearly deserved punishment?

And it's not like Christ couldn't punish when he wanted to. He didn't let the money changers off the hook. Why didn't he show mercy to them?

Personally, I think Christ makes a distinction between the weak and the malign and even with weakness there are limits. There has to be some intention to try and do good in a person, even though personal circumstances may lead them to sin. Christ is not approving of this state of affairs but makes a discretionary allowance through Mercy.


The Social Pathologist said...

@Edmund

First, this is about a very temporal punishment (stoning) not eternal salvation.

How do you know?

If Christ had permitted the stoning her punishment would have been eternal. He didn't act differently on Earth as is going to in Heaven.