UNBELIEF¹

 

Thomas Russell Wingate  

April 2012

 

 

  

                   1

  

Antinomianism is a term seldom heard.

 

Whoever uses it does not accept the notion that “moral law” is entirely of human invention and mutation.

 

The Latin is easy to decode: against-the-law-ism.

 

                   2

 

Ideas have trends, fashions, and habits. Certainly, none of ours are new.

 

We moderns are constantly boasting that our technologies, or at any rate our newest ones, or our impending ones, or our eventual ones, will turn homo defectus into homo perfectus.

 

Why do we listen to each other on these subjects?

 

                   3

 

We spend much time trying to persuade each other that what is customary now, or whatever aspires to become customary soon, is permissible under the canopy of religions inherited or discarded or remodeled.

 

Why do we need this canopy?

 

Why do we lack confidence in our own moral right (!) to do things our own way?

 

4

 

Since we do lack confidence, to whom should we turn for guidance?

 

Philosophers have developed, and are still refining, chains of ideas which attempt to answer age-old questions humankind has deemed important.

 

In all the history of thought, there is nothing more ancient and widely dispersed than unbelief (among the educated).

 

Religions grow up around their founders, even when their founders do not wish it. Buddha, Confucius, and Marx provide sufficient and varied examples. This tells us much about human nature.

 

                   5

 

Atheism has its place in metaphysics.

 

Atheism is about the furniture of the universe.

 

Agnosticism has its place in epistemology.

 

Agnosticism is about the power and limitations of the human mind, about what we can know and what we will never be able to know.

 

Wikipedia explains all this at enormous but appropriate length.

 

                   6

 

The Bible does not contemplate the existence of atheism or atheists.

 

Folly, perversity, blindness, and stupidity are pictured: “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalms 14:1, 53:1)

 

Intellectual atheism, when it turns subversive, is condemned in the Book of Mormon (Alma 30).

 

                   7

 

“Godlessness,” “unholiness,” “unbelief,” and “irreligion” come under condemnation because they are thought to be linked to antinomianism.

 

Widespread antinomianism, the prudent insist, is the fast track to ruin—the ruin of everybody, not just the iniquitous.

 

Modern progressive thought is unwilling to contemplate the possibility that civilization might reverse its direction, not by accident but by addiction to glorified falsehood.

 

What WE believe to be true IS true because WE are especially … 

 

And yet: there is a surreptitious fear that doomsayings thought to have pertinent substance will come true. This accounts for much of our cinema and literature, especially the stuff adolescents take to heart.

 

                   8

 

The atheist and the agnostic have exactly this, and only this, in common: they regard any deity as an idea, perhaps a quaint one, to be argued about as a recreation.

 

In the beginning was the Argument, and the Argument was with us, and the Argument was us, and we were the Argument, and we still are the Argument. Blessed be the Game of the Argument.

 

                   9

 

Intense and private experience can trump argument.

 

In 1654 Blaise Pascal, well inside anyone’s definition of an intellectual giant, redirected his life after being found by

 

FIRE. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace.

 

We may safely assume that the author of Pensées was familiar with Deuteronomy 4:24 and its echoes in Hebrews 12:29 and 10:31. We may also assume that he wrote what he meant and meant what he (secretly) wrote.

 

In 1273 Thomas Aquinas, after a meeting with Christ Himself, discontinued his intellectual activities, saying: “All that I have written seems like straw to me.” The most thorough theologian of the Catholic Church found his Redeemer to be far superior to anything his mind and his pen could capture.

 

If you are inclined or educated to consider them unfortunately imprisoned in an ugly age, pause: what makes you think that you aren’t?

 

                   10

 

Persons of the noblest character have found unbelief worthy of them.

 

More than a few have been second to none in intellectual prowess.

 

We owe them our respect.

 

                   11

 

Ethics is about right and wrong.

 

Let us be clear. Let us be unsurprised.

 

Atheism and agnosticism are not about right and wrong.

 

In their sober moments, they do not claim to be.

 

Religions, not philosophy, insist that ethics is connected to the Divine. 

 

Religions, not philosophy, conclude that disinterest in the Divine decays (radioactively, you might say) into moral weakness, moral eunuchry, moral solipsism.

 

For the last few centuries, philosophers in the West have severed the ethical from the worshipful. (In Hume’s jargon, you cannot reach an ought from an is.)

 

Previously, everybody knew what ought to be done. Everybody also knew that everybody fell short. Perfection in This World was not being sought. The Next World, heavenly or infernal, awaited us.

 

12

 

C.P. Snow² famously observed that our sciences and our humanities have become quite separate cultures which misunderstand and mistrust each other.

 

That isn’t the only cleavage.

 

The intellectual mind is not really on speaking terms with the carnal mind.

 

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)

 

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:7)

 

Paul is talking about antinomianism. He says its core is an unfixable psychological incapacity which can be persuasive, especially when it is unopposed. 

 

Whenever it can break out, it will break out—and become epidemic.

 

                   13

 

Secular humanism, having convinced many that man lives by bread alone³ and likes it that way, misdirects its pieties and the energies they stir.

 

If its teachings were true, it would not matter that its teachings were true.

 

Why human-ism at all? Why not just matter-of-fact-human?

 

Secular humanism began with unshakable confidence that the best elements of our selves and societies could, would, and should improve and control the baser and more backward elements.

 

Are we seeing its success? Or are we seeing its corruption and failure?   

 

Why are so many surrogate religions being made available? And why are they not honestly labeling themselves?

 

14

 

Moral relativism—isn’t.

 

What gives morality strength and appeal can be stretched only so far. Beyond that, it becomes something else.

 

                   15

 

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7)

 

Often we walk by the faith of others, not our own faith.

 

This is our heritage.

 

 

 

NOTES

 

 

1 See Error and Tradition on website.

2 See Wikipedia for C.P. Snow; also, for Tower

   of Babel.  

3 Christ (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4) was paraphrasing

   Deuteronomy 8:3.


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