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Spengler

Francis I’s Theology of Universal Salvation

May 29th, 2014 - 4:04 am
(cross-posted from Asia Times Online)
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-02-290514.html
By Spengler

There are two kinds of people: those who think that everyone will (or should be) saved, and those who don’t. Among the former are many – communist, socialists, and most present-day liberals – who assert that human agency can right all the world’s wrongs. There also are religious millenarians who believe that God has a plan for universal salvation, but because things do not work out this way, they feel obliged to help God accomplish what he does not seem eager enough to do on his own.

That is a religious outlook rejected by the Catholic Church. [1] After Pope Francis I’s journey to the Holy Land this weekend, though, it is hard to suppress the perception that in his heart he yearns for universal salvation, although his public discourse, to be sure, is consistent with Church doctrine. The Holy Father really seems convinced that he can fix the world, starting with a part of the world that no-one has been able to fix, and in any case does not especially require fixing.

His intervention into Middle Eastern politics, I believe, arises from deep theological convictions that override perceptions of fact and practicality. He appears to believe that a miracle will move the recalcitrant hearts of the contending parties in the Middle East. I believe in miracles, but I don’t think they can be summoned at will.

Why focus on the Israel-Palestine issue to begin with? The Muslim world long since put it on the back burner, as Lee Smithobserved last year. In the pope’s mind, the problems of the Palestinians – benign as they are compared to those of Syrians, Iraqis or even Egyptians – stand as a symbol of the ills of the world that a just God would want to fix. Francis has mistaken windmills for giants.

The pope’s strangest gesture, but perhaps his most characteristic, was to invite Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestine Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican next month to pray for peace. Peres does not pray, as he hasacknowledged in public.

In the unlikely event that he were to pray, he could not do so in the Vatican, for Jews are forbidden to pray in buildings with Christian religious images. In any event he has no mandate to speak on Israel’s behalf, and will resign his largely ceremonial position in July. Outside of the world of miracles the exercise is triply pointless. According to most Islamic authorities, the same stricture applies to Abbas, who is not a religious man, either. A prayer session with Peres and Abbas is the stuff of the real maravilloso.

Everything a pope does should be viewed through the prism of theology. and a purely theological impulse led Pope Francis to wade into the minefields of Middle Eastern politics, as the champion of what he alone among the leaders of the West hails as the “State of Palestine”. For 20 years, the Israelis and the Palestine Authority along with the major powers have debated whether and on what conditions there might be a State of Palestine. Francis seems to believe that it will be so if he declares it to be so.

Kindness radiates from this pope, whose gestures to the Palestinians were balanced by unprecedented gestures to the Israelis – a wreath on the grave of Zionist founding father Theodor Herzl, and a declaration that the Holocaust was a uniquely evil act in world history. There is not a hint of ill will towards the Jews in Bergoglio’s public record. On the contrary, in his November 2013 encyclical he reaffirmed, “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’.” The subject is neither the Jews nor the Arabs, but rather the new pope’s vision for the Catholic Church.

A controversy erupted in the Catholic world after Francis preached “universal redemption”, arguing that all people naturally seek the good because of the good ness of creation. The pope argued that atheists can do good just like Christians, and that “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation … The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.”
But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.
“Yes, he can… The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!”
Father, the atheists?
“Even the atheists. Everyone! We must meet one another doing good.”
But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!
“But do good: we will meet one another there.”

By the pregnant word “there”, Francis did not necessarily mean Heaven. Catholic theologians hastened to point out that “redemption” means the potential for “salvation” after Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, which in Catholic doctrine redeems the whole world. Francis nonetheless blurs the distinction. The (mostly anti-religious) media hailed Pope Francis’ remarks as a declaration that one doesn’t have to adhere to Church doctrine to be saved. Those were not his words, to be sure, but that’s how the music sounded.

As the Church ministers to a shrinking number of individuals, it is tempted instead to try to save everyone. The Church is still growing in the United States mainly due to Hispanic immigration, but it is almost certain to shrink as Latinos leave the faith. In 2010, two-thirds of Americans in the United States of Hispanic origin identified as Catholics; by 2014 the figure had dropped to only 55%. Latin America is still majority Catholic, but not with strong conviction. A gauge of diminished faith is the decline of Latin American fertility from four children per female in 1985 to just two today.

How to respond to shrinking numbers of communicants is the subject of a quiet but impassioned debate. Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, advocated a small church strategy; he wrote in 1996 that the time may have come to “abandon traditionally Catholic culture” and consolidate the Church around “small seemingly insignificant groups” that nonetheless “bring the good into the world”. The alternative view is millenarian and messianic: despite the shrinkage of the Church itself, he believes, the Church in the person of its Supreme Pontiff will intervene in and transform the world.

Pope Francis’ sudden passion for a Palestinian state is not arbitrary. It is yet another expression of his millenarian hopes for the renewal of a Church that saves fewer individuals than ever but hopes instead to save everybody. We observe the same messianic universalism in his New Year’s message denouncing market-based capitalism, and in his willingness to soften doctrinal restrictions in order to broaden the Church’s tent. This troubles conservative Catholics, for example New York Times columnistRoss Douthat, who worries that small exceptions (permitting divorced Catholics to take Communion, for example) will lead to what he calls:

the late-Soviet scenario, in which Catholic doctrine is officially unaltered, but the impression grows that even the pope doesn’t really believe these things, and that when the church’s leaders affirm a controversial position they’re going through the ideological motions – like Brezhnev-era apparatchiks – and not actually trying to teach a living faith.

Francis has said nothing in public at variance with established doctrine, contrary to the impression given by media reports. It is all a matter of words and music. Putting the Church’s earlier emphasis on social issues such as abortion and traditional marriage in the background, Francis famously called the Church “a field hospital after battle”.

Leaving aside the niceties of dogma, that is a view quite different from most of his predecessors. It may portend a revolution in the Church unprecedented in its 2,000-year history. When the Church emerged in Europe in the Dark Ages, it was Europe: it assembled Europe out of the migrating riffraff of pagan tribes. European mainstream culture was Catholic culture, and by construction. The marginalization of the Church is an anomaly so at variance with its origins at character that it has elicited a truly novel response.

Traditionally, the Church taught that salvation comes through acceptance of its Sacraments and the forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ by the proxy of a duly-ordained priest (although exception is made for righteous non-Catholics who have not explicitly repudiated Catholic doctrine). As the Church’s influence shrank in the aftermath of the two world wars, though, an alternative theology of universal salvation poked its head up through the rubble.

What Catholics believe, of course, is their affair; I am not a Catholic, and I do not share the Church’s views of sin, salvation and damnation. Nonetheless, the Church is the core institution of Western civilization and what it does affects the rest of us. Without presuming to instruct Catholics about their religion, I wish to call attention to some of these implications.

The great Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar proposed to hope that hell itself was empty (in two books published in 1986 and 1987, translated by Ignatius Press under the English titleDare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?). He wrote: “I would like to request that one be permitted to hope that God’s redemptive work for his creation might succeed. Certainty cannot be attained, but hope can be justified.”

That, to be sure, was a speculation carefully advanced at the end of a long and distinguished career, but it elicited cries of heresy. Urs von Balthasar insisted that the Church must “contrast Christian universality of redemption to Jewish salvation-particularism”. For most of its long history, the Church taught that it was Israel and that Gentiles were saved by adoption into Israel; not until the 1980s did John Paul II declare that the living, breathing descendants of Abraham still were “Israel” in a theological sense. John Paul II’s declaration (restated by his successor, Benedict XVI, as well as Francis I) that the Old Covenant never was revoked was a revolution in the Church’s relationship with the Jews. Nonetheless, the new universalism

also raises the prospect a new form of anti-Judaism. It abhors the notion that God has a particular love for any section of mankind.

Pope Francis’ impatience with Jewish particularism roils below an amicable surface. When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu mentioned during his public meeting with Francis that Jesus spoke Hebrew, the pope corrected, “Aramaic!” Netanyahu patiently observed that Jesus spoke both languages. Israelis, for example the distinguished Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, read this (I believe correctly) as an effort to attenuate Jesus’ Jewish identity, that is, his association with the particularity of Israel. It is not that Francis does not want to love the Jews: he wants to love everyone in exactly the same way.

Not long ago, Catholic practice was nearly universal in the Catholic countries and admitted heretics were few; today, Catholic practice involves a small minority and the mainstream culture repudiates religion altogether and Catholicism in particular. Even most Catholics reject a great deal of Church doctrine, which explains the great popularity of Francis I; they believe the media stories that the new pope doesn’t much care about issues such as abortion and homosexuality.

From the viewpoint of traditional Catholic teaching, the vast majority of humankind, including the vast majority of citizens of once-Catholic countries, will suffer eternal damnation. Urs von Balthasar simply couldn’t stomach the notion: how could God be so cruel as to condemn the preponderance of his creatures? What would that say about the goodness of creation itself? [2] Inspired by his mystic soul-mate, the visionary Adrienne von Speyer, Urs von Balthasar formulated a novel and hugely influential mystical doctrine of universal salvation.

That is one drift inside the Church. Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, sought instead to consolidate the Church around a stronger core of faith. In his 1996 book Salt of the Earthhe put the matter as forcefully as possible:

Perhaps the time has come to say farewell to the idea of traditionally Catholic cultures. Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the Church’s history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live and intensive struggle against evil and bring the good into the world – that let God in.

This formulation made headlines when the book’s first, German edition appeared. The largest-circulation news publication in the country, Der Spiegel, featured Ratzinger’s willingness to abandon “traditionally Catholic cultures” (the German read rather die Volkskirche, the popular Church). The distinguished Catholic philosopher Alisdair McIntyre also proposed a small-church strategy. I do not know why Ratzinger resigned his office, but sentiment in the Church clearly has shifted away from this view of the role of the Church.

Among Catholic writers in the English language, Joseph Bottum has addressed the problem most directly. He argued in a 2013 essay that the Church should not make a stand on the issue of gay marriage where it was bound to lose, but rather concentrate on broadening its tent: “We should not accept without a fight an essentially un-Catholic retreat from the public square to a lifeboat theology and the small communities of the saved that Alasdair MacIntyre predicted at the end of After Virtue (1981).”

Conservative Catholics heaped opprobrium on the author without, however, addressing the core issue: how should the Church respond to its marginalization by mainstream culture?

Ratzinger, in my view the last great man of the West, anticipated this problem from the 1950s onward. Not so his peers in the Church. The fall of communism during the papacy of John Paul II persuaded many Catholics that a glorious new era of Church history was at hand, in which Catholic Poland would set the tone for the industrial world (see First Things Last, Asia Times Online, July 22, 2013). On the contrary, Poland, like most of Eastern Europe and a good deal of Western Europe, is on course for a demographic catastrophe later in this century.

Benedict XVI believed in God’s special love for Israel, for the same reason that he believed in the particularity of a Church whose institutional and doctrinal integrity he fought to preserve. When he visited the Holy Land in 2009, Israeli newspaper columnist Aviad Kleinberg noted that Ratzinger

… was the confidant of Pope John Paul II, and his immense theological authority was a critical aspect of the previous pope’s moves … . John Paul and Ratzinger buried once and for all not only the accusation of the Jews’ murdering the messiah, but the entire theological theory that the Christians replaced the Jews and are now the Chosen People and that the New Testament annuls the Old Testament. The Old Testament is still valid, declared the two, and the Jewish people is still God’s chosen and beloved people.

Benedict made no attempt to insert himself into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because he understood his role as spiritual; Francis, by contrast, has declared the plight of the Palestinians “unacceptable” and has inserted himself into a political process. It would be wrong to think of Benedict as “spiritual” and Francis as “political”.

On the contrary, different theologies are at work. The Palestinian problem is “unacceptable to Francis” not because the Palestinians are being butchered, as in Syria, or because they are starving, as in Egypt, or subject to constant terror attacks, as in Iraq. Except for the oil-rich Gulf states, Arabs in Judea and Samaria have the best living standards, health and educational levels in the whole of the Arab world. They suffer inconvenience and occasionally humiliation, but they are not at risk.

Other popes have taken political stands, notably John Paul II’s role in the Cold War. But St. John Paul did so under conditions when humanity was in real danger; Bergoglio staged a political theater when nothing more is stake than his own salvific ambitions. Benedict XVI offered a public critique of Islam’s propensity for unreason and violence; Francis offered a public embrace of his “dear brother” Sheikh Muhammed Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who has earned international condemnation for advocating the extermination of the Jews.

For Pope Francis, the Palestinian problem is “unacceptable” because it represents the failure of the world to elevate a people perceived to be downtrodden and oppressed: it is important for its symbolic value rather than its factual content. Never mind that the Palestinians have painted themselves into their own (rather comfortable) corner; their perceived plight is an offense to Pope Francis’ millenarian vision of universal salvation. Francis evidently feels he must intervene to right a perceived wrong, like an ecclesiastical Amadis de Gaula, because it is there.

I fear that the Church, the founding institution of the West, its pillar and mainstay, has lost its moorings. The State of Israel will do quite well without it; it was founded in 1947 against the opposition of the Church then immeasurably more influential, and does not require the blessing of the Church to flourish today. But Bergoglio’s behavior in the Holy Land bespeaks a dilution of the Church’s self-understanding and a deviation from its mission. In 2005 I wrote, “Something is stirring in the ashes of the West, and Benedict XVI yet might bring forth a flame.” I am less sanguine today.

Notes
1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 676, states: “The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the ‘intrinsically perverse’ political form of a secular messianism.
2. How, indeed, can a good Creation produce an overwhelming preponderance of damned souls? That paradox lies at the heart of the particularist-universalist divide. Judaism is not a salvific religion in the Christian sense: the World to Come figures only hazily in Jewish thinking, and the rabbis taught that righteous Gentiles have as much share in the World to Come as pious Jews. But rabbinic Judaism has quite a different view of the goodness of Creation: God left Creation in an unfinished, imperfect state, so that humanity would have the task of perfecting it. SeeWhy Intelligent Design subverts faith, Asia Times Online, October 23, 2012.

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This is among the most astute analyses I've read on the words and deeds of the present Pontiff. I would add only one thing: where did the difference between Ratzinger and Bergolio come from? And no, it's not just emotional temperament.

The difference lies in their distinct relationship to the Second Vatican Council. Both St. JPII and Benedict XVI were actually at the Council and help shape it. Their papacies were authoritative and relied mostly on the letter of the Counciliar documents and sought a hermeneutic of continuity.

Pope Francis is really the first post-Counciliar pope. He was not at the Council in any official capacity, but was a witness to it and shared in its "spirit". His theological commitments stem from that "Spirit of Vatican II" rather than from the actual documents. He belongs to the episcopal generation of Cardinals Bernadin, Quinn and Mahony. But this generation is dying out fast, and with hope, the next Pope will be a more sober figure from the JPII generation. Perhaps someone like Cardinal Schönborn, who, even though he has had some doctrinal issues, is far more capable than Francis.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I fear that the Church, the founding institution of the West, its pillar and mainstay, has lost its moorings. The State of Israel will do quite well without it"

You are so kidding yourself Spengler with this statement.

The Catholic church was brought into the world in some measure to save the Jews. One of the oldest Jewish groups in the world is in Rome itself. Those who became Catholics in the early church were Jews, they did not cease being Jewish when they became Catholic, just a different type of Jew.

If Christianity were to fail, Catholicism in particular do you honestly think Israel would be able to stand alone?

The only thing that could save it would be Jesus.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am a Jewish admirer of the RCC but your statement, "(o)ne of the oldest Jewish groups in the world is in Rome itself" is ridiculous. I would like to see you attempt to expand on this statement and to explain how contemporary RCs are Jewish according to Jewish law by birth or conversion as well as recognition that they are bound by the commandments as set forth in our Torah. I suspect you'd provide some explanation totally outside the bounds of normative Judaism.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I should have said one of the oldest "continuous" Jewish groups in Europe.

I got most of this information from Rabbi David G. Dalin's book "The Myth of Hitler's Pope", in his defence of Pius he talks about the Roman Jewish community quite extensively, including some of its history.

Claims that the RCC hate Jews do not make sense when in the heart of Rome one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe has existed since the 2nd century.

Personally I see those who view their own identity in terms of "race" as being the greatest enemy of the Jews, not those who share the Jewish belief in God.

RC are of course not Jewish by Jewish law.

My first point is most of the early converts to Christianity were Jewish, so it makes sense that they did actually not cease being Jews in any physical sense even if they became Christian. On this point I believe Israel accepts those whose genes identify them as Jewish which seems to indicate that for them being Jewish is simply a racial grouping.

My second point which I mentioned in the earlier post is that Jewishness in the Bible is not clearly defined as racial, it is also defined as faith, as indicated in the story of Abraham and Isaac. In this sense RC are Jews, we believe in the same God.


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20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for your responses. I misunderstood at least par of your comment, not realizing that you were referring to the Jewish community of Rome. My apologies.

I hope to reply a bit more before nightfall.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
"From the viewpoint of traditional Catholic teaching, the vast majority of humankind, including the vast majority of citizens of once-Catholic countries, will suffer eternal damnation"

I am no expert, but I am not sure Spengler this statement is completely accurate.

Universalism within the Church has been around for centuries. And what of the belief in Purgatory. Surely Catholics believed that those who lived good lives according to the natural law were not eternally damned but did penance until the final judgement. This point is made by Paul in the Letter to the Romans. Eternal damnation can be much exaggerated.

Again I am no expert but those who wish to destroy the Catholic church are always quick to declare "traditional catholic teaching" just as they are quick to exaggerate the horrors of the inquistion.

"how should the Church respond to its marginalization by mainstream culture?"

What would you suggest? That the church accept the murdering of unborn children, of perhaps it should indulge the gross immorality of modern culture with its wallowing in violence, pornography and mockery of anyone and anything.

These things were all part of Roman culture and brought great suffering and injustice into the world. Any moves to accept these things from the Catholic church would only bring on great retribution from God who above all abhors injustice.

Many Catholics may have a weak faith, but many as yet do not fail to live deeply faithful lives.

21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Watch ChurchMilitant of Michael Voris. He brings up repeated examples of prelates and priests and lay people who amalgamate Catholic culture with the current world culture only to produce the "Church of Nice." Bishops and Cardinals can be found who find protesting abortion, etc. to be quite passé, even some of the Pope's words were in this direction. If a culture = the sum of values that make it ongoing, then Western culture is, as an intellectual Pope noted, a "culture of death". No Western country is reproducing itself and abortion is basically naught but a remedial birth control. Voris holds that about 20% of American Catholics hold to "Catholic" culture and half of those do not know well Catholic doctrine. The samething is going on here in Europe. Catholicism and Protestantism (i.e., one that takes tradition seriously) are being marginalized and, indeed, being forced to participate, via HHS Mandate, in abortion. Roman culture is one thing, contemporary secular culture is another. The direction in which most Catholics are moving is towards modernity. I think tha you are confusing cultures, alas.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Prof. Iw for the last 50 odd years it has been the Catholic church alone which has stood against the state, opposing abortion, homosexuality, divorce, contraception, immorality, pornography, in fact the whole plethora of evils which have descended on the west.
Many Protestants fight, many safeguard their pensions.
Many Catholics and Christians of all types waver, can you blame them, they have divided loyalties, after all they have jobs to secure, families to please, children to love and the power of the church is constantly marginalized.
The wonder of it all, in the face of the overwhelming power of the state the Catholic church has not been broken.
And lets face it many states wish to destroy it.
Perhaps Francis will lead it towards change; for the worse in my opinion, but many would then consider the church has descended to the evil of the world rather than raising up the world to the goodness of God.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’.”

True enough, but who are the Jewish people with which God made his covenant? Is it the race of Jews or is it those who believe in God?

That is the question Paul raises, isn't it? The Sacrifice of Issac raises this.

Benedict and Francis and John Paul are right, but it is more subtle than most realise. In the sense of "those who believe in God" Catholics are Jews too.

I think the truth about Judaism is that those who put their faith in their "race" being the deciding factor in Gods favour towards them are the ones who reject Gods plan for the whole world. These are the ones who ultimately reject God and put their faith in the power of man and their own power.

As for the decline of the Catholic church I think it is true, it is slowly being corrupted from within, the child abuse scandals show this, but it is only catching up with the rest. The decline of Christianity has been going on for centuries beginning with the Schism and the Reformation.

It has nothing to do with modernity or anything like that, it is simply the power of the state has been greatly magnified by wealth and technology and those who reject God have found their power to influence has increased also and many are deceived. It is the great apostasy.

This won't change until peole see how evil the west has become. Right now many recognise we are completely immoral and rotten, but the state holds on, bribing us with borrowed money and selling off the family farm so to speak, pretending it loves us while encouraging us to murder our own unborn.

One day the game it plays will end as our wealth declines and then people might start to see what they have put their faith in, and what a hideous thing it is.
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21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
' "We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’.” ... Benedict and Francis and John Paul are right, but it is more subtle than most realize. In the sense of "those who believe in God" Catholics are Jews too'.

So, is it your opinion that the three most recent Popes were being disingenuous and didn't actually intend to convey the plain and common meaning of the phrase, "Jewish people"?
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
'I think the truth about Judaism is that those who put their faith in their "race" being the deciding factor in Gods favour towards them are the ones who reject Gods plan for the whole world.' - This is an age old calumny against the Jews. The most "ultra-Orthodox" Jew recognizes and celebrates that converts to Judaism are authentic Jews. That is why the Book of Ruth (demonstrating King David's descent from a convert) is a focus of the upcoming festival of Shavuot.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Apologies if the statement was insensitive.

On John Paul, Benedict and Francis, I think attitudes have changed in regard to Jews because of the Holocaust and return to Israel. Many Catholics even those who are traditionally suspicious of millennialism recognise the prophetic significance of the return.

It is well known that evangelical Protestants have embraced Israel because of this.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Francis, more than some predecessors, seems to cause non-Catholics to come to all sorts of incorrect conclusions about what he is saying and what he means.

Spengler has fallen into that trap. Like usual, Spengler is spectacularly right when he is right, and spectacularly wrong when he is not. This is one of the later, less common, events.

Just one fact as an example. Spengler: "How to respond to shrinking numbers of communicants"

And yet, the Church has twice the number of members of 40 years ago, and the same percentage of world population. There's regional dwindling, like there's regional climate change, but it means little.

Rather than go into all the detail, let's look at one fact that is wrong in the article:
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, there is a big increase in Africa, but the quality of conversion is questionable (look at Rwanda). Latin America is at the cusp of a huge dropoff, comparable to Quebec during the "Quiet Revolution." American Hispanics are leaving the Church in huge numbers, as I mentioned. China is mainly going evangelical -- Catholic conversion remains modest. The one great success is the Philippines.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wrong and right. Wrong for Europe, America (both South and NORTH). Also, as Voris has shown for America, about 80% of so-called Catholics do not believe much or anything, do not go to Church and, hence, are Catholics in name only. l live in Germany and Germany is closing churches rapidly ...there is sort of a race between Catholicism and Protestantism as to which will disappear first. And the great "disappearance" is in a post hoc, ergo hoc relation with the "fruits of Vat II. I see a causal connection. Where Cathoicism is flourishing is where the West is not really there, e.g., in Aftrica. Oh, interestingly, many priests and occasionaly a bishop here in Germany are Africans---you see not enough Germans are interested. Spengler refers to "shrinking numbers of communicants" (I prefer "disappearing") and he is 100% correct when it comes to the "West".
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
As always, David, a great post. Just a couple of points

It appears that the head of the Roman Catholic Church is ipursuing a different direction than his predecessor. It is much too early in Francis' papacy to judge that he is wrong.

Your statement that " Arabs in Judea and Samaria have the best living standards, health and educational levels in the whole of the Arab world. They suffer inconvenience and occasionally humiliation, but they are not at risk" is frankly a bit insulting. It is like telling African Americans that they were better off under Jim Crow than Africans in Africa.

We know that Pres. Obama and Sec. Kerry invested a lot of their capital in promoting a settlement. I just feel that the personal relationship between the President and PM Netenyahu is so bad, that there is just no room for movement.

Maybe, just maybe, the intervention of the Pope just might work. I jusgt don't think there will be much praying.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bob,

It's not possible for me to improve on the responses of Spengler and Truepeers to your comparison of Blacks under Jim Crowe, with Martin Luther King as their most prominent spokesman, to Palestinians living under Israeli control with the likes of Arafat, Abbas and Sheik Yassin (may their names be blotted out) as their prominent spokesmen. Your comment was morally deaf.

But, I would ask whether you really wish to be on record praising the Israel/Palestinian "peace" efforts of BHO and Kerry? For example, do you really think their tactic of pressuring Israel to release convicted Palestinian terrorist-murders is either moral or effective?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bob, thanks for the kind words. I don't think the comparison to African-Americans in slavery is at all fair. They were brought to America in chains; the ancestors of the Palestinians were mainly economic immigrants from Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Their leaders made their own problems for them. Go to Ariel University in Samaria, with 1,000 Arab students, and you will see what great benefits the Jews have brought to the Arabs of the West Bank. There's no Jim Crow--on the contary, there's outreach to recruit Arab students. My point remains: what is the urgency of the Palestinian issue while 9 out of 21 million Syrians have been displaced by civil war? That is a humanitarian disaster, and the world is doing very little about it. I have a big, big problem with the pope's sense of priority.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Alternatively, maybe it is a bit insulting to compare African Americans under Jim Crow to a population whose leadership, political, religious and educational, has pursued war and very murderous terrorism since the 1920s. And, what's more, earned a lot of foreign aid (unlike Arabs in neighboring countries) for doing just that, so that a large percentage of the population has its living as professional gunmen. Placing Palestinians in the "civil rights"/victim paradigm is the problem, not the solution.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
However, if the observed universe contains more than one (us) self-reproducing entities (note I do not say intelligent life), where does that leave intelligent design?
Are you saying that intelligent life is what results from intelligent design only? What of there is spontaneous generation of self-reproduction system, some of which may have "intelligence" whatever THAT may be.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good Ole Charlie - The presence of two self-reproducing entities, not necessarily intelligent, in different parts of the universe does not preclude an intelligent designer, and an intelligent designer does not mean intelligent life.

For me, the issue of intelligent design vs. Darwin comes down to the issue of probabilities. Some Darwinists are aware of the problem, and hence their proposal for the existence of an infinite number of universes. When you have an infinite number of universes, the probability problem goes away, but then the presence of an infinite number of universes fails Poppers test of falsifiability. It can't be proven, and is in the realm of science fiction.

Unfortunately, the Darwinian hypothesis is much like global warming. In academia it cannot be rejected because of the fear of ostracism. Like global warming, it has become a religion.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
A slight problem arises. An "INFINITE number" is really a contradiction, despite Canotr. "Infinite" as endless simply relativizes nothing, i.e., it means aseries having no end, always open to one more number. If one tries to closes off the endless series into a definite number, one treats, as Laserowitz noted decades ago, infinity as just one more number like, say, 15. But 15 can be followed by 16 or preceded by 14. Infinintey (I do not possess the symbol), however, cannot be followed by any(numerical)thing. I have read over 15 books my mathematicians who have tried to justify closing and endless series (which then is not numerically determinate) into a closed off number. The best argument I have read amounts to saying, "What the heck, it is fun. so let us do it." An endless series of universes produces no specific number which can be used in a probablity formula. Or do we want to duell here?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
It would be interesting and worthwhile for this essay to be published in First Things.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Spengler, you amaze me. You, probably unconsciously, have played the same game I have, namely collecting papal dots and connecting them into an outline. Since Pope Francis began his papacy he has made remarks or done things that seem unkosher (if I may be allowed a Jewish expression). So, I started collecting the strange deeds as dots, hoping to connect them into an intelligible outline. Your analysis is a development of an outline that I did not want to draw, though the dot-tiness was inchoately there. Maybe my sources are different. If one turns to Gloria.tv or Katholisches.info one can find much consternation re the "dots" that have puzzled me. The sharp thinking Louie Verrecchio of "Harvesting the Fruits of Vatican II" has more than once designated Pope Francis a "material heretic", the powers-to-be at "The Remnant" are disturbed by the Pope's deviation from tradition, his constant insulting traditionalist (is not always a nice man) and his apparent disdain of "defined" doctrine. Michael Voris of ChurchMilitant has exposed tirelessly the deviance and rampant malfeasance of bishops (= "The Church of Nice"), though refusing to expand the outline to the big DOT, the Pope. If the reader is interested in the deplorable state of the Catholic Church, Voris has various long lectures on the collapse of the Catholic Church in the USA. More importantly, this collapse can be viewed as the "fruits of Vat ii", and this brings me to the first outline feature. Pope Francis sees himself as the REALLY REAL realizer of Vat II. He has ceased opposing "modernism", indeed, has embraced much of it. You have more than once praised the intellect of Benedict XVI, i.e., that Pope made his evaluations in light of "reason". Pp Francis does not. He is not irratonal, rather emotional. In other words, he seeks feeling-experiences and than applies reason to explain said feelings. He is influenced by Pentacostalism (much influence in Latin America) and prefers liturgically to whoop it up to the old cold Latin Mass. Find the Rio Mass on internet with rock 'n roll and swinging bishops and hosts distributed in paper cups and you have a vision of him. (Look up in YouTube "A comparison of Catholic and Orthodox liturgies" and one can see the fundamental change from tradition.) Tentatively Pope Francis has accepted the "it feels good" nature of modernity and seeks to such techniques in his approach to the world. FEELING, intense and pentacostal-like, lead him. This I suspect leads him towards millenialism. Even in his politics.

Enough with theological matters. Pp Francis has stated that inequality is the root of social evil. Compare this with Marx' discusion of inequality in "The Critique of the Gotha Program". Very similar in spirit. The poetic young Marx viewed the world as an antogonism between "what is" and "what ought to be" and evolved this view into a conflict of absolute inequality between the "winners" and "losers" (terms from the Pope) in socio-economic life. The Pope does not like "winners" because they entail "losers", called the "poor". I have written two books on mythic structure of Marx' scientific thinking and believe I understand Marxism. The irreconcialable inequality between "winners" and "losers" is at the pre-theoretical basis of marxism. In my tentative opinion, Pope Francis accepts this opposition. Social evil (sinful structures), not individual evil (personal sin) become dominant. This, in my opinion, has made him victim of the Theology of Liberation with its marxism so rampant in Latin America. I suggest that the Pope sees the Palestinians as the "losers". Hence, he calls Palestiniains his "brothers" and calls for a meaningless prayer-experience with Abbas and Perez. Ari Yahar in Arutz Sheva (?) of May 19, 2014 printed an article in which he, quoting a source, noting that the "Pope wants to be the 'Che of the Palestinians'". A Martin Luther King, fine, a Che absolutely NO. If this is so, it shows the direction of the Pope's feelings, i.e., of the dynamics of his actions. I long for the days bygone of Pope Benedict XVI.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I miss Benedict, too. If Jerusalem stones its prophets, Rome sends them into early retirement.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I watch a news clip on Gloria.tv of one Pope Benedict's visits to Germany. A long line of bishops were there to greet him. Benedict extended his hand for a handshake. The vast majority did not extend their hand. Benedict must have been under enormous pressure.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
David - As usual, very good. I agreed with everything you said -- and wondered how you know so much about Christianity -- but I disagreed with your last line. The theory of Intelligent Design is not a theory of God, it is only a theory about the seeming presence of design in nature and the seeming presence of perfection in certain apsects of nature that allow for life to exist. There appears to be an intelligent designer -- how else to explain the vast improbability of life on earth? Is is, however, beyond the ken of Intelligent Design theory to say that the designer is God. That is for the individual to make that metaphysical leap. Moreover, it seems to me, in your criticism of Intelligent Design, you mix up theodicy with Intelligent Design. That reminds me of Darwinists who proclaim that God would not have done such and such (such as vestigial organs [that are really not vestigial or junk DNA which is turning out not to be junk]) and therefore there is no God, putting themselves in place of God. If you have not yet read it, I would recommend Darwin's Doubt to you by Stephen Meyer to see the argument for Intelligent Design. (Other more technical tomes have been written by William Dembski on this issue.)
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who designed the plague bacillus and tsunamis?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
David - Darwin's methodological naturalism precludes God. In Intelligent Design, God is a sufficient condition but not a necessary condition. One can ask the broader question of theodicy - why do bad things happen to seemingly good people. In particular, why the Holocaust; who designed that? When it comes to Intelligent Design others more capable than I have a made a strong argument for it. (Note - until five or six years ago, I too accepted the Darwinian Hypothesis; on reading texts opposing it, I came to the conclusion that on a probabilistic level, the hypothesis was implausible; almost nothing in natures seems to work the way the Darwinists suggested it would.) I urge you to be open minded on this subject and to delve into some of the texts on this subject. Several other texts you might want to read on the implausibility of the Darwinian Hypothesis are Thomas Nagle's Mind and Cosmos, David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion, and Michael J. Behe's Darwin's Black Box as well his Edge of Evolution.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm well aware of Nagle, Berlinski et. al. Darwinism doesn't work for a myriad of reasons. Neither does the premise of Design by a benevolent Creator. If you read the linked essay, you'll find an alternative theologicla view: Creation is incomplete and imperfect by design. That's the standard rabbinic reading as elaborated by R. Joseph Soloveitchik.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
David - Intelligent Design is a scientific theory about the appearance of design in nature implying a designer. It is not a theory of God or of a benevolent creator (cap c or small c). Because certain cosmological constants are perfect for life, that does not mean that life is perfect here on earth, or that creation here on earth is complete.
In any event, have a Shabbath Shalom, and a chag sameach next week.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I do not wish to enter the debate here. But on German tv I constantly hear about the evolutonary strategies of NATURE or (Herr) EVOLUTION. In a recent program on the feelers of certain beattles, the presenter continually sought out the (Platonic?) "ideas" underlining the intelligent organization of a certain beattles. Over and over again, and I mean OVER AGAIN, I listen to how NATURE or EVOLUTION worked out this or that strategy, as if nature and evolution were an "ens" (as in "ens infinitum = Deus", although I prefer "esse infinite" as an ontological designation for "Deus"). It is simply overwhelming. I never hear anything about evolution other than in the terms that force me to think of an intelligent designer at work in an infinite or infinitely expanding universe. Well, a designer of such infinity would be a designer possessing an essential entative feature of God. If so, then the designer could well be God.

You raise the theodicy question. I suggest reading about the German writer Georg Büchner, a most brilliant indiviudal who died at 24 (I believe). His approaching death, so to speak, caused a sort of theodicy crisis in his friends. Büchner, shortly before dying, woke up and spoke clearly: "We do not sufffer enough, for it is through suffering that we come to God". This unties the theodicy knot before its is made. I suspect that this attitude towards "the slings and arrows" of a terrible (but intelligible) life underlies the attraction of Jesus on the Cross. Suffering is transformed into a means of salvation.

I note that I am not a big fan of the designer theory. (Berlinski in "Uncommon Knowledge" did support the creationist theory as more plausible than the Darwinian theory.) So as a teaser I refer to Josiah Royce who wrote an essay "The Conception of God" in a book of that name in which, using omniscience as a prime feature of God, Royce develops a sort of onotological argument such that, only at the price of contradiction, can one deny the existence of such omniscience. Try reading it, it is fun. I would go further (and have done so) with an Anselmian-like conceptualization of actual infinity as a parallel argument for divine BEING, the denial of which is impossible without contradition. (I wrote BEING as I deny "existence" to "esse infinite". In other words, if God exists, God is not. If God is, God does not exist. Thereby "existence" is limited to finitude. But, then, however weird that all sounds, one is away from designers and into ontology.)

21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
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