The True Source of Authority
Our culture has a crisis of authority. The response to Covid-19 by the regime demonstrated this. Where does authority come from?
Prayer “possesses a conductive power.” Without prayer, “our freedom of will and powers of resistance diminish; the appeal of demonic powers become more compelling, and its imperatives more terrible.” Ernst Jünger 1
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." Acts 2:17
Some insights take a long time to come together fully. You have all the pieces within you, some of which you have used and worked with often over the years. Then you come across a writer, a book, or an article that is the final key to a complex puzzle, the one insight that brings everything together, showing you the full import of all these other seemingly tangential bits and how they fit together into a cohesive whole. The author in this case is Augusto del Noce, and he shown me the political import of ideas that heretofore were “merely” religious and theological, perhaps a little philosophical. With our society’s secular/religious divide, these ideas would seem the most comfortable today in the private realm of one’s personal faith. In my efforts to bridge that divide, I have discussed them cautiously in my Substack with the hope that a wider audience can grow more at ease with the idea of thinking theologically about the world.
But once the full import of del Noce’s insight began to settle upon me, it imposes a demand that this this public/private split be smashed down. In his book “The Crisis of Modernity” (which I just lent to a friend, so I will be going from memory…no quotes from the book) he takes a step that few have the courage to take, and he is often sly and understated when doing so. Lots of authors, Christian or otherwise, talk about the “the Transcendent” or “the Divine” or even “God.” They will even do so in specifically Christian ways. You will hear talk about “metaphysics” or of “Being.” You will hear people discussing “the creation order” or “natural law.” All of these have long, respectable, academic traditions. You will even hear non-Christian, and even some Christian, authors talk about “re-enchanting” the world. But, in many ways, one gets the sense that it is somewhat academic, a step removed from us. If you don’t want your Christianity to be stuck in some Bible thumping ghetto, some Pentecostal revival meeting, you learn pretty quickly how to discuss the Christian faith in “respectable” ways that don’t get too weird, to tinged with the dangers of “enthusiasm.” Del Noce throws that all out the window. When he talks about the “transcendent” he frequently accompanies it with another very loaded word: the “supernatural.” While he is very much an academic, he makes the point that what he advocates is not an abstract understanding of transcendence, but rather, one that is visceral and real, something you actually experience. You don’t just talk about God. You actually meet God. His fundamental argument politically, is that people who actually meet God, who interact with the unseen spiritual world of metaphysics, creation order, natural law, angels, demons, and yes, God himself, represent the biggest threat to the power of the regime which is based largely in its opposite: atheism and materialism.
Materialism and Immanentism
The various essays by del Noce gathered together in “The Crisis of Modernity” delve deeply into this notion of “modernity” and its implications. He confronts a world consumed with atheism and materialism, a world in which God is dead. Or if he is not dead, then he is an immanent force working in history and society. God is the face of Progress. God is the builder of institutions and the righter of social injustices. Immanentism, del Noce argues, is the attempt to make the transcendent at home in a world in which God is dead. To do this, the church must become more “relevant” to the world. On the one hand there are those who keep to traditional forms of morality, but then do things like emphasize the Bible more as an end in itself, than as sign which points to something greater than itself. One conforms one’s life to the the perceived content, the rules of living, contained therein. The Bible ceases to be a mere instrument in the pursuit of participating in the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). The Bible is a book of practical insights showing you how to live the good life, build a strong marriage, manage one’s family, handle finances and so forth. All of it is horizontal. Church growth is the same. The measure of success is the growth of the institution. There is a whole industry of management guru style books focused on growing your church. Is it a wonder that most churches today are indistinguishable architecturally from a corporate headquarters or a research park?
On the other side of immanentism is those that focus on accommodating the sexual mores of the dominant culture, embracing the sexual revolution in the name of social justice and creating a welcoming environment to the unchurched that way. What began as a response to issues of poverty within society quickly transformed in a post-Nietzschean world into the social gospel. Or, in its more radical forms, into liberation theology: the attempt to meld Marxism with Christian teaching and practice. To fully grasp the moment and understand the full import of where we are today, regardless of the feathers this ruffles, is that much of the church today is immanentist. The church growth and praise and worship movements which seek cultural relevancy for the purpose of reaching the unchurched are but one side of the coin of which the other side is that of woke churches who seek cultural relevancy by harmonizing its morality with that of the secular culture.
Both streams, the one corporate and technical and the other moral and sexual, are attempts to give the Christian faith a home in a post-Nietzschean world in which God is dead. Even when not embraced in its most radical forms, most of us today function as if we live in a materialist and atheist world. Philosophical materialism makes the argument that there is nothing but matter. There are no spiritual realities, no God. There is only dead inert matter. Those of us who are Christians are a lot more influenced by this way of thinking than we realize. Of course, we believe in God. We genuinely do believe in God, a personal God. That being the case, we often live much of our lives like materialists.
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