Monday, March 09, 2020

Some Comments

Unfortunately  I've been unwell for the last ten days and haven't been able to post.

One of the reasons I put up the posts on modernity is because Weber, in my opinion, puts up a far more convincing and thoroughgoing explanation as to why religion collapsed in the West with the onset of Modernity compared to any other I have seen. What I like about his approach is that it focused more on the experiential aspect of religion rather than its rational validity.  Many attempt to explain the decline of religion as a consequence of a triumph of alternate--philosophical--explanations of reality, whereas Weber sees religions decline as coming about primarily due to daily irrelevance, annoyance and competition from other newly available interests.  Interestingly, unlike many, he doesn't see Modernity and Religion as being intrinsically opposed and lays much of the blame on the hostility between the two on the clergy which he admits did not seem to know how to respond to the changes that it was experiencing.

This latter aspect is one that is worth more reflecting on. Human nature may remain the same but circumstances change, and a Church that cannot adapt to circumstances is a church that is going to have a very hard time. Many may read this as implying that the Church needs to "change with the times" or "be up to date", but that's not what I'm trying to get across.

Consider, for example, the practice of giving alms. The Church may have been right to emphasise this in previous times where there was no alternative social welfare service, but now in the world of universal social security the Church simply becomes another aid organisation, effectively "competing" against the State for their provision.  Rather where the Church seems to do well is when it tries to provide a solution for the "crisis" of the times.  I mean, in Communist countries, the Church was the resistance with its emphasis on human rights. But what this means is that the Church must be adaptable to circumstances while maintaining its deposit of the faith.

Unfortunately two things seem to have occurred which have stymied it in its approach. Firstly, there has been an exaggerated sense of tradition which has stymied its ability to deal with novel situations and secondly, I am increasingly of the opinion that it has lapsed into a Manichean type of heresy if not explicitly in theology then implicitly by practice.  Things need to change and imagine they will but I expect it will be a lay driven phenomenon and not a clerical one.

Anyway it's Lent now and I'm meant to take on some commitment for the season which is mean to improve my spiritual well-being. So I have decide to tackle Charles Taylor's, A Secular Age, again. I tried it before but it really didn't inspire. It's a sort of Lenten mortification. Blogging will therefore be very light over this period.


Bruce Charlton said...

@SP - "Human nature may remain the same but circumstances change"

I believe this is wrong. Even at the level of mainstream science, it is crystal clear that intelligence and personality have changed substantially over time due to natural selection; and these are indeed very different in different genetic groups (races) around the planet as-of-now.

Furthermore human nature is different at different ages, with disabilities and diseases, and between the sexes. Again for normal ,'biological' reasons.

But - on top of this, and more profoundly - there is the line of reasoning best argued by Owen Barfield (eg Saving the Appearances or Worlds Apart), from which perspective there is at least a plausible and coherent set of assumptions and evidences that human nature in its deepest sense has changed, through several pahses, across history - and that this change has been actively 'driven' by what could be termed 'divine plan' - and not merely passivley in response to the accidents of history.

The Social Pathologist said...


Thanks for your comments.

I'm not sure about Human nature changing. Reading history, you tend to see the same follies and idiocies being repeated over and over again. I'm not saying it can't be tweaked in certain circumstances it's just that fundamentally human nature taken "as an aggregate" has remained remarkably consistent. People still love their kids, desire beauty and are envious of the rich, etc.

One of the problems with asserting that human nature is changeable is the implication that human nature can be changed with appropriate conditioning and social engineering and here we definitely open the door to the Modernists.

MK said... focused more on the experiential aspect of religion rather than its rational validity.

I would say there is no difference; true religion lived or not real at all. Jesus hammers this point over and over. And amusingly those who actually "live" a faith-filled life tend to have no trouble with doctrine within the limits of their own IQ. It's why most wealthy "Christians" are too full of acedia even breed, while impoverished Africa pagans are exploding in life. Faith without works is indeed DEA.

MK said...

So I have decide to tackle Charles Taylor's, A Secular Age, again. I tried it before but it really didn't inspire.

I had the exact experience you had. I couldn't even get half way, yet everyone seems gaga over it. Let us know if you find it improved on a second reading.