Saturday, December 28, 2019

Protestant Integralism

I know I told Bruce Charlton that my next post was going to be on modernisation but I've been struck down with a cold and the brain is a bit mushy.

One of the interesting questions for me is why did countries like Spain, Portugal and Ireland, which could in many way be considered Integralist,  so rapidly secularise following the collapse of the political structures which supported the Church.

One of the brightest guys dealing with the subject is José Casanova, one of the world's top scholars on the sociology of religion. Cassanova's expertise is in the relation between religion, modernity and secularisation. I thought I would post an extended quote from one of his books as he provides a very good explanation with regard to the mechanics at play.  For those of you who can't be bothered reading it the executive summary is as follows:

1) Catholicism made no space for the secular.
2) Any secularising force had to to oppositional to Catholicism and therefore hostile.
3) Calvinism allowed a secular space.
4) Protestantism was able to blur the distinction between the secular and sacred, integrating the two in a way that Catholicism was never able.

As John Witte shows in this book, Luther reassembled the dualism of the Augustinian two kingdoms theory in novel ways that led to relocations of the sacred, the religious and the secular. Most importantly - and this is the key difference with the laicist Southern-Latin pattern - the core dualism between the religious clergy and the secular laity is dissolved by mutual infusion, so that, in Witte's formulation, "Luther's doctrine of the priesthood of all believers at once laicised' the clergy and 'clericised' the laity."[ED] The 'clerical' office of preaching and teaching was secularised, becoming one secular vocation just like any other, while the traditional 'lay' offices now became "forms of divine calling and priestly vocation." 
The 'church' is also radically transformed in the process. A new dualism now emerges between the ecclesiastical institution, which as a visible church is just, part of the saeculum that falls under the law of the earthly kingdom, i. e., the state, and the invisible church of the eschatological communion of the saints. In the process, the 'true religion', the Kingdom of God, of Love and of the Gospel, mutates into a religion of inwardness and migrates to the individual conscience, eventually giving birth to pietist movements on the margins of the ecclesiastical institution, which prepared the ground for the modern cult of the individual and the sacralisation of human rights. Secularisation or soft `deconfessionalisation' in this context means : a) continued adherence to the national church, which remains under the jurisdiction of the national sovereign; b) a drastic decline in religious (ecclesiastical) beliefs (confessional faith) and practices (rituals); c) interiorisation of a modern, individual, spiritual realm which becomes the authentic space of the sacred. There are of course tensions between the three domains of the religious-secular-sacred: a) the democratic national collective (the civil religion); b) the ecclesiastical Lutheran church; and c) the individual inward conscience. But there is no radical chasm or schism between the three.
 The Southern Latin Catholic pattern evinces different dynamics of dissociation and relocation of the social sacred (state and nation), the ecclesiastical institution (the Catholic Church) and the religion of the individual. The process of absolutist confessionalisation is based on a close alliance between throne and altar, but the transnational structure of the Catholic Church and papal supremacy do not allow the kind of integration and fusion of the two one finds in the Nordic Lutheran pattern, even under caesaro-papist Gallicanism[ED]. The secularisation of the state takes place through a radical break with the church that resists disestablishment. The schism here leads to a protracted chasm, indeed to a kind of prolonged civil war within the social sacred between a new republican laicist civil religion and the old national Catholic religion. The Latin-Catholic path of laicization is marked not by integration but by civil-ecclesiastical and laic-clerical antagonism. It maintains rigidly the boundaries between the religious and the secular, but pushes those boundaries into the margins, containing, privatising and marginalising everything religious. When it breaks the monastery walls, it will not be to bring the religious into the secular world, but to laicize them, dissolving and empting their religious content and making religious people (monks and nuns) civil and laic before forcing them into the secular world. Deconfessionalisation of state, nation, and individuals here means assertive anti-Catholic unchurching.
The absolutist principle cuius regio ejus religio was not significantly altered by the shift of sovereignty from the monarch to the nation or people with the fall of the ancient regimes or with increasing massive democratisation process in the 20th century. European societies have remained religiously homogeneous societies, and the only significant change has been that from belief to unbelief. In this sense the process of European secularisation ought to be understood primarily as a process of deconfessionalization of states, nations, and individuals. But here one can also distinguish between the Nordic pattern of soft deconfessionalisation, which can best be characterized as 'belonging without believing', that is, secularisation without unchurching, and the more radical deconfessionalisation of the Catholic South that accompanies laicist unchurching. Denmark presents the paradigmatic case of a European society with one of the lowest rates of religious belief and practice accompanied by one of the highest rates of confessional affiliation in the national church, the Church of Denmark. In this respect, to be Danish, to be Lutheran, and to be secular amounts to one and the same thing. This contrasts with the Southern Catholic pattern (France, Belgium and, increasingly, Spain, but not so much Portugal or Italy) of radical secularization and laicist deconfessionalisation.
The secular is understood here in drastic laicist, anti-clerical, and often anti-religious terms that demand assertive unchurching. Spaniards in post-Francoist Spain who took the resisting Catholic Church to court in order to get their names erased from the church's baptismal registry may serve as a vivid illustration of this assertive deconfessionalisation.

(José Casanova:Secular and sacred? The Scandinavian case of religion in human rights, law and public sphere)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

I'd like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a prosperous and safe New Year. In keeping with the Protestant theme of recent posts I thought I would post a link to one of my favourite Christmas carols: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The Catholic Right likes to diss Protestantism but its worth remembering that there are a lot of good things in Protestantism that need to be acknowledged and affirmed.

God bless.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Alternative Modernities

How Modernity differs from the pre-Modern is rather difficult to succinctly state but suffice to say that there is a qualitative difference between pre-Modern and Modern societies which can be recognised by looking at them.

For the purpose of this post I want to take world as it was in 1940 to illustrate what I'm getting at. The England of 1940 was modern society compared to the England of 1640. Industrialization, urbanisation, mechanisation and so on had changed life to such a degree that the mode of living for the average citizen was substantially different.  England was modern in a way that Yugoslavia or rural Romania was not. Likewise Germany, France, USA, Sweden, Russia, Japan etc were modern societies.

While all of these societies were modern, the expression of their modernity was largely contingent up local factors which shaped the path of modernity in their countries. Germany, while modern, was different to the U.S.A., which was different to Japan. Remember, this is 1940.

One of the distinguishing features of modern societies is the rise of a managerial class which is responsible for the administration and co-ordination of all the institutions which make modern life possible. In Germany and Japan, this managerial class was fascistic, in Russia, it was Marxist and in England and USA it was Protestant. Modernity, in each of these countries was strongly influenced by the cultural values of its managerial class. The reason why the Anglosphere was a haven for individual liberty, freedom of conscience, respect for the person, prosecution of degeneracy and freedom of religion is because they were the values of mainstream Protestantism at the time. Anglosphere modernity was Protestant tinged. Mainstream Protestantism as it was 1940.

I don't want to get into Catholic modernity since it is a far more complex subject but suffice to say Catholicism has a very difficult relationship with it and its relationship to it has been frequently antagonistic instead of co-operative. In 1940 it proved to be relatively irrelevant to world affairs.

Anyway what I'm trying to get at is that modernity can assume many different forms and not all of them are intrinsically hostile toward religion. I think one of the great weak spots of Right wing thought is the anti-modernistic sentiment seen so often in many of the commentators. Agrarian simplicity is only appealing to those who have never had to work the land. The problem is not so much modernity as it is irreligion.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Rethinking Protestantism III: Ernst Troeltsch

Gentlemen, Everything is tottering!
Protestantism gets a lot of grief in reactionary circles especially with regard to its relationship with liberalism and the modern world.  And I personally feel that a some of this criticism is quite justified. However, I do think that many critiques of Protestantism miss the fact that it seems to have "handled" modernity in a way that Catholicism wasn't able to.

In order to keep this post manageable, I'm going to define modernity as the sociopolitcal environment that has come about from the implementation of ideas of the Enlightenment. i.e. contemporary society and political state.  The distinguishing feature of modernity is the legitimisation and autonomy of the secular.

From the outset, Catholicism has had a problem with this state of affairs. UntilVatican Two, it could be safely said that it's aim was to reintroduce the Church's position in society that it had assumed in the Middle Ages. i.e. A complete involvement in every aspect of life to the degree that it felt it was appropriate. Any "secular space" in such a schema was really nothing more than "light touch" Catholicism. There was no true secular space in such a society nor can there be one where the faith is "integral" to it.

However, the ages of faith were as much a condition of temporal contingencies as they were of religious devotion and Modernity sideswiped Catholicism because it didn't understand this fact. The Printing press, large scale commerce, industrialisation, steam power and urbanisation were as toxic to its medieval preeminence as were heretical ideas. Modernity inherently generates secular spaces and the problem for Catholicism is that it doesn't know how to deal with secularity.

The other problem with Catholicism is that it has one model of "holiness".  Good Catholics are those who spend a lot of time practicing Catholic asceticism which involves an effective withdrawal from the world. However secular competence involves spending more time in the affairs of the world. The result is that the more "holy" a catholic, the more "aescetic" they are and the less secular they can be. i.e. Good Catholics spend lots of time in Church like affairs, bad Catholics spend time in the affairs of this world. Hence Catholicism's paucity of lay saints.  This may also go a long way to explaining the inefficiency of many Catholic secular institutions.

At the dawn of the 20th Century Ernst Troeltsch was one of the foremost public Protestant theologians. Unfortunately, he seems to have been mostly forgotten during most of the 20th Century, though recently there has been a resurgence in his thought. One of his areas of interest was in the relationship of Protestantism and Modernity. He was also a fair and sympathetic critic of Catholicism and incidentally, the next door neighbour of Max Weber.  His book Protestantism and Progress deals with this subject explicitly and I thought it would be worth to jot down a few of my thoughts on it as Troeltsch has several interesting ideas.

Firstly, Troelstch does not see a direct link with Protestantism and Modernity, the relationship being far more complex. Troeltsch, unlike many Catholic scholars, situates the origin of Modernity in the Renaissance humanism of Italy and regards early Protestantism as the continuation of the Middle Ages and anti-Modernist. The early Protestant division, Lutherism and Calvinism initially compete as alternative "churches" to the Catholic Church. It's approximately two centuries after the division that the Protestantism starts to fully develop along the lines of its doctrinal innovations and begins to rid itself of the habits of Catholicism.

Secondly, Troeltsch argues that Protestantism develops along its doctrinal lines and emergence of personal conscience and self-sanctification through the pursuit of vocation enable it to engage the world in a way that Catholicism could not. Protestant "vocationalism" is able to Christianise the world by getting into the thick of it.
...while Protestantism has furthered the rise of the modern world, often largely and decisively, in none of these departments does it appear as its actual creator. What it has done is simply to secure for itgreater freedom of development and that, moreover, in the various departments in very various ways ; and besides, the action of the different Confessions and groups has differed  in strength and direction. All it has anywhere done is to favour, strengthen, colour, and modify the course of the development, while in some cases it maintained and even rein forced the opposing influences drawn from the Late-medieval view of life
...religion is really derived from religion, and the results of its influence are really, in the first place, religious. Religion becomes a power in ordinary life only by taking up civilisation into itself and giving it a special direction. But it always itself remains distinct from this civilisation ; it is always more a formative than a creative force.
Protestantism is able to "capture" modernity and modulate it according to its particular denomination. In the case of the Amish it is a "backwards" force, while in the case of the Calvinists it was able to develop it along Christian lines in a "forward" direction.

Thirdly, Troeltsch recognises--like much of the reactosphere--that the weak point of Protestantism is its individual subjectivity which is able to ditch the theological doctrines which enabled it while maintaining the habit of them. Protestantism while being able to engage the world also has the dangerous propensity to become part of it and in the end undermine itself.
Another point which has to be taken into account is that the inner ecclesiastical structure of the Protestant Churches, and especially of Lutheranism, is considerably weaker than that of Catholicism, and therefore when con fronted with the modern world of ideas, has less resisting power than Catholicism.
Here the essentially Protestant basis of this movement is clearly evident, the transformation of the idea of freedom and grace into the ideas of the self -directing personality and a spiritual fellowship having its roots in history, all on the basis of a theism which has taken up into itself the idea of immanence. Moreover, this modern religious temper, in a thousand various modifications, has been so thoroughly absorbed by large portions of modern Protestantism, that the latter can scarcely be distinguished from the former. But it is equally unmistakable that modern religious feeling is in other cases dissatisfied with this, after all, ultimately Personalistic idea, and under the sense of the iron uniformity of natural law, of the world as a monster devouring all humanity, or, on the other hand, of the aesthetic glorification of the world and cult of individuality, tends towards ideas and feelings which are radically pantheistic, pessimistic, or, again, absolutely revolutionary, aiming blindly at producing some change or other. And where this spirit prevails, all relation to the practical, political, economic, and technical side of our civilisation is often entirely forgotten.
Troeltsh seems to recognise that Protestantism, in practice is a spectrum from the religiously sincere to those with a habit of it only. When Protestantism is "good" it is able to Christianise modernity, when Protestantism goes bad, it becomes an anti-civilisational power.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Sex Abuse Saga Quote Du Jour

Although it comes from the local left wing rag, this comment by the Chief Commissioner of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse is worth some thought:
“I cannot comprehend how any person, much less one with qualifications in theology [ED] ... could consider the rape of a child to be a moral failure but not a crime,” Justice McClellan said in a speech to the Australian Human Rights Commission. “This statement by leaders of the Catholic Church marks out the corruption within the Church both within Australia, and it seems from reports, in many other parts of the world.”
It's easy when your theological training effectively makes mercy to the criminal more important than justice to the victim.

As I've said before there are two elements to this saga:

1) The particular crimes committed by the individual criminals.
2) The institutional response once the crimes were made known to the Church.

As the institutional response was the same throughout the world, the failure of the Church to respond appropriately should not be seen primarily as a failure of specific individuals to act, but rather a systemic problem in the Church rooted in its "operational" principles.