Saturday, October 15, 2016

The servility of the intellectuals

"amongst those who clamour for independence of thought, how many have this faith, and above all, the sincere desire to realize it?  How many are really the servants of truth, loyal, disinterested and determined to go to the very end of truth? . . .  the intellectuals, the great majority of them, were unfaithful to their duty, unequal to their task, and . . . the independence they professed was conditioned by their real servility to the masters of public opinion, the dispensers of honours and of benefits.
     "The war had shown their versatility, their lack of character, their herd-instinct.  But it also brought to light a minority of men who knew how to withstand the test; and one could hope that the minority would be, after the war, as a solid core round which an army could gather determined to defend against future assaults the claims of truth, which are not different from those of social justice:  for social justice is but truth in action."

     Romain Rolland,"Panorama," I will not rest [(Quinze ans de combat (1919-1934))], trans. K. S. Shelvankar (New York:  Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1987), 17.  I was put onto this by Douglas V. Steere, "On the power of sustained attention" (1960), Gleanings: a random harvest (Nashville, TN:  The Upper Room, 1986), 52 (37-53).
     Yet Nobel laureate Rolland was apparently a fairly uncritical admirer of Josef Stalin right through to his death in 1944.  See, for example, Michael David-Fox, "The 'heroic life' of a friend of Stalinism: Romain Rolland and Soviet culture," Slavonica 11, no. 1 (April 2005): 3-29 (which I have only skimmed).

"shallow modern responses to shallow modern assumptions"

"Religious fundamentalisms are . . . 'shallow modern responses to shallow modern assumptions'."

     Lucy Beckett, Times literary supplement, 27 November 2015, as quoted by Rupert Shortt, in God is no thing:  coherent Christianity (London:  Hurst & Company, 2016), 95.  (But the reference to the TLS is off.)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"The eternal action of Jesus Christ grounded in His resurrection is itself the true and direct bridge from . . . Himself in His time to us in our time."

"All honour to the human and historical pragmatism of recollection, tradition and proclamation. But in relation to the divine history of this repraesentatio and oblatio it can be considered only as an epiphenomenon, with a significance which is only secondary, and indirect, that of an instrument and witness. The eternal action of Jesus Christ grounded in His resurrection is itself the true and direct bridge from once to always, from Himself in His time to us in our time. Because as crucified and dead He is risen and lives, the fact of His death on the cross can never be past, it can never cease to be His action, the decision which God makes hic et nunc to His own glory and in our favour, summoning us on our part to responsibility, as is brought out so impressively and in a way to stir the conscience in Heb. 1019-29. 'Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised' (Heb. 1022-23). Jesus Christ Himself lives. His obedience pleading for our disobedience. His blood shed in obedience speaks against us and for us to-day as it did on the day of Golgotha. He receives "or us to-day as on Easter Day the grace of God which we have not deserved. For this reason the judgment fulfilled by Him, the sacrifice offered by Him, is effective for us. Not therefore in some answer of ours to our questions: What are we going to make of it? How can we bring home this matter to ourselves and other men? Or how can we bring ourselves and other men to this matter? Where and how do we experience and prove its efficacy? There is a relative place for these questions and answers, but only in the light and in strict explanation of the one question and answer which God Himself has put and given in Jesus Christ, which indeed He does put in eternity and therefore to-day, and which He answers in the antithesis of the obedient Son and the gracious Father. Our answer and our question have to be sought (Col. 31) 'above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.' But this means in prayer, prayer in the name of Jesus, prayer which we expect to be heard onlybut without doubt or hesitationbecause God has loved and loves and will love the one who offers it as a lost sinner in Jesus Christ, because, therefore, Jesus Christ has come between this one and God, and is there between to-day and every day."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 315 =KD IV/1, 347.

"The central fact of American religion today is that liberal Protestantism is dead and everywhere triumphant."

     Matthew Rose, "Death of God fifty years on," First things no. 265 (August/September 2016):  47 (43-48).

Not funny

     "For if obrazovat’sia is not a neologism, then one must ask what it is that gives Stiva such pleasure. Not that the word is somehow a new one but rather that it is, for him, an agreeably apt use of an old one, a word that proposes a sort of indifferent, in-the-natural-course-of-things resolution for his distress—an easy, perhaps even slightly cynical abstracting by his friend and servant of the fraught human circumstance in which Stiva’s casual moral ineptitude has placed himself and everyone else, and the implications of which he has not fully grasped, as Tolstoy shows us again and again.
     "Matvey has offered him a comfortable lexical evasion, so to speak, a 'nice little word' ('slovechko,' as Stiva says in very colloquial Russian) that he can, moreover, eventually include in a story for effect (more evidence of his skewed moral orientation, of his aesthetic view of life), and that almost punningly represents for him that the situation with which he is faced is merely a formal one, an idea that the rest of the novel will of course in various ways refute. The word, which was thus for Tolstoy a kind of thematic pivot or node, essentially means, as Garnett correctly indicated, that things will work out, will come out all right in the end; that chaos will sort itself out and the previous form and arrangement of things and relations will return, almost by themselves and unscathed, in the 'inevitable rhythm' of life, as the charming but shallow Stiva self-indulgently conceives it."

     Judson Rosengrant, "To the editors," The New York review of books 63, no. 14 (September 29, 2016):  93.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Rev. Joseph Glanvill (1636-1680) on the Cartesian way to happiness

     "We expect greater things from Neoterick [than Peripatetic] endeavours.  The Cartesian Philosophy in this regard hath shewn the World the way to be happy.  And me thinks this Age seems resolved to bequeath posterity somewhat to remember it:  The glorious Undertakers, wherewith Heaven hath blest our dayes, will leave the world better provided than they found it.  And whereas in former times such generous free-spirited Worthies were as the Rare newly observed Stars, a single one the wonder of an Age:  In ours they are like the lights of the greater size that twinkle in the Starry Firmament:  And this last Century can glory in numerous constellations.  Should those Heroes go on‘ as they have happily begun, they’ll fill the world with wonders.  And I doubt not but posterity will find many things, that are now but Rumors, verified into practical Realities.  It may be some Ages hence, a voyage to the Southern unknown Tracts, yea possibly the Moon, will not be more strange then one to America.  To them, that come after us, it may be as ordinary to buy a pair of wings to fly into remotest Regions; as now a pair of Boots to ride a Journey.  And to confer at the distance of the Indies by Sympathetick conveyances, may be as usual to future times, as to us in a litterary correspondence.  The restauration of gray hairs to Juvenility, and renewing the exhausted marrow, may at length be effected without a miracle:  And the turning of the now comparative desert world into a Paradise, may not improbably be expected from late Agriculture.
     "Now those, that judge by the narrowness of former Principles and Successes, will smile at these Paradoxical expectations:  But questionless those great Inventions, that have in these later Ages altered the face of all things; in their naked proposals, and meer suppositions, were to former times as ridiculous.  To have talk’d of a new Earth to have been discovered, had been a Romance to Antiquity:  And to sayl without sight of Stars or shoars by the guidance of a Mineral, a story more absurd then the flight of D├Ždalus.  That men should speak after their tongues were ashes, or communicate with each other in differing Hemisphears, before the Invention of Letters; could not but have been thought a fiction.  Antiquity would not have believed the almost incredible force of our Canons; and would as coldly have entertain’d the wonders of the Telescope.  In these we all condemn antique incredulity; and ‘tis likely Posterity will have as much cause to pitty ours.  But yet notwithstanding this straightness of shallow observers, there are a set of enlarged souls that are more judiciously credulous:  and those, who are acquainted with the fecundity of Cartesian Principles, and the diligent and ingenuous endeavors of so many true Philosophers; will despair of nothing."

     Joseph Glanvill, Scepsis scientifica:  or, confest ignorance, the way to science . .. (London:  E. Cotes, for Henry Eversden, 1665), chap. 21, pp. 134-135.  I was put onto this by David Wootten, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  Harper, 2015).  According to William E. Burns in the ODNB, however, Glanville was more anti-Aristotelian than pro-Cartesian, for "Scepsis scientifica was shorn of much of the praise of Descartes [present in The vanity of dogmatizing (1661), of which the Scepsis was basically a rehashing], as, probably under More's influence, Glanvill had become disenchanted with Cartesian mechanical reductionism as materialistic."  Indeed, "Opponents of witchcraft belief who denied the reality of demons and their effects on the world, [Glanvill] held, were contributing to the menace of atheistic materialism."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The heart has its reasons

". . . and though no reason may apply
Salue to your sore, yet loue can higher stye,
Then reasons reach, and oft hath wonders donne."

     Glauce to Britomart in Edmund Spenser's The faerie queene III.ii.36.  Though Spenser has erotic love in mind, this is erotic love in the most ennobling sense.  Cf. III.iii.1-2, III.ii.40 ff., etc.

An early 7th-century (or earlier) prayer written for the recitation of bishops with birthdays (or perhaps anniversaries of ordination) in the month of September

Wikimedia Commons
Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us, and not what we may merit, but to wonder at the grace of your office conferred; that just as your worthiness instructs me to serve at the sacred altars in the episcopal office, so may it perform [the said office] worthy also in merit: through. . . .

Memento, domine, quod es operatus in nobis, et non quid mereamur, sed conlati gratiam tui muneris intuere; ut sicut me sacris altaribus tua dignatio pontificali seruire praecipit officio, ita dignum prestet et merito:  per.

     Early 7th (or earlier) Veronese (or "Leonine") sacramentary ed. Mohlberg, no. 976, Mense Septembri, In natale episcoporum (Month of September, on the birthday of bishops).  Memento is the imperative of memini, -nisse.  dignum, like muneris and officio, is a neuter.  Corpus orationum no. 3311 cites also Ps 68 (67):29b:  "quod operatus es nobis."  Thanks to Fr. Kendall Harmon for flagging the version of this below:

1979 BCP, Traditional and Contemporary:
Remember, O Lord, what thou hast wrought in us, and not what we deserve; and, as thou hast called us to thy service, make us worthy of our calling; through. .  . .

Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us, and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through. .  . .

Fr. Roderick James Thompson back-translated this (new to the 1979 BCP) into Latin as "et quia nos vocasti in serevitutem tuam, fac nos dignos vocationis nostrae:  per" (Liber precum publicarum:  et administrationis sacramentorum aliorumque rituum caerimoniarumque ecclesiae:  cum Psalterio Davidico:  secundum usum Ecclesiae Episcopalis:  in duobus voluminibus (San Francisco:  Laud Liturgical Press, 2008 [2001])).