Saturday, August 23, 2008

Boersma on what invites an assertion of the sheer will to power

“the nonviolent ethic that drives much of the agenda of Radical Orthodoxy seems to me morally problematic. If reality is indeed a human construct in which boundaries continually fluctuate according to newly developing socially acceptable arrangements, there may not be much to argue about, let alone fight about. In that case, the Church’s practices of forgiveness can be summed up as a peaceful life of harmonious difference, where constant negotiation and renegotiation determine reality by means of persuasion. My suspicion is that such ‘harmonious flow’ will, in the end, lead to more rather than less violence. The will to power will inevitably assert itself where the readiness to speak for and defend divinely given truth has disappeared. If, on the other hand, as St. Augustine’s view of participation contends, the cosmic order has objective reality as a result of God’s creative and providential care, we may well find that there are divinely ordered fines—‘borders’ or ‘ends’—whose beauty and truth captivate us and which are worth defending in the interest of the ultimate telos: the peace of the City of God (Ps 147).”

Hans Boersma, “On the rejection of boundaries: Radical Orthodoxy’s appropriation of St. Augustine,” Pro ecclesia 15, no. 4 (Fall 2006): 446-447.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hanby (and Schindler) on the "freedom beyond our choosing"

“Augustine defines this act of faith in his anti-Pelagian writings as thinking with assent, but the nature of such assent can be easily misconstrued if viewed through the lens of Cartesian or post-Kantian conceptions of volition. In contrast to these modern views, which for malign metaphysical reasons oppose free choice to all manner of determination, free assent for Augustine is in fact a species of desire. Significantly, Augustine uses assent interchangeably with consent, ‘(con-sentire, to “perceive with another”), an act that so to speak weaves together the work of two agents into one.’ And more significantly still, he makes this subtle shift in terminology in the context of explaining how faith is simultaneously the gift of God in us and in our power, indeed, in our power all the more that it is God’s gift in us. Assent, in other words, is inherently responsive, that is, simultaneously self-determined and determined by another without any inherent antagonism in that relationship. Indeed, it is precisely this co-action—my simultaneous determination to the good and by the good—that constitutes consent for Augustine.”

Michael Hanby, “These three abide: Augustine and the eschatological non-obsolescence of faith,” Pro ecclesia 14, no. 3 (Summer 2005): 352-353. The definition of consent comes from D. C. Schindler, "Freedom beyond our choosing: Augustine on the will and its objects," Communio: international Catholic review 29, no. 4 (Winter 2002): 637-638, another excellent article.

"Antique pieties cannot be restored"

“But what is the consequence, then, when Christianity, as a living historical force, recedes? We have no need to speculate, as it happens; modernity speaks for itself: with the withdrawal of Christian culture, all the glories of the ancient world that it baptized and redeemed have perished with it in the general cataclysm. Christianity is the midwife of nihilism, not because it is itself nihilistic, but because it is too powerful in its embrace of the world and all of the world’s mystery and beauty; and so to reject Christianity now is, of necessity, to reject everything except the barren anonymity of spontaneous subjectivity. . . .
“I for one feel considerable sympathy for Nietzsche’s plaint, ‘Nearly two-thousand years and no new god’—and for Heidegger’s intoning of his mournful oracle: ‘Only a God can save us.’ But of course none will come. The Christian God has taken up everything into Himself; all the treasures of ancient wisdom, all the splendor of creation, every good thing has been assumed into the story of the incarnate God, and every stirring towards transcendence is soon recognized by the modern mind—weary of God—as leading back towards faith. Antique pieties cannot be restored, for we moderns know that the hungers they excite can be sated only by the gospel of Christ and him crucified. . . .
“in the light of this history, . . . this [the first] commandment is a hard discipline: it destroys, it breaks in order to bind; like a cautery, it wounds in order to heal; and now, in order to heal the damage it has in part inflicted, it must be applied again. In practical terms, . . . this means that Christians must make an ever more concerted effort to recall and recover the wisdom and centrality of the ascetic tradition. . . .
“It means, in short, self-abnegation, contrarianism, a willingness not only to welcome but to condemn, and a refusal of secularization as fierce as the refusal of our Christian ancestors to burn incense to the genius of the emperor. This is not an especially grim prescription, I should add: Christian asceticism is not, after all, a cruel disfigurement of the will. . . . It is, rather, the cultivation of the pure heart and pure eye, which allows one to receive the world, and rejoice in it. . . . Christian asceticism is the practice of love.”

David B. Hart, “Christ and nothing,” First things no. 136 (October 2003): 53, 55.