Practical Notes Quotations

The Convenience of the Ministry?

(Quotes from Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria)

Still the Church presents to every man of learning and genius a profession, in which he may cherish a rational hope of being able to unite the widest schemes of literary utility with the strictest performance of professional duties.

This attitude seems rather unfortunate: not, of course, because many of the authors whose maintenance was provided by the Church of England did not both diligently discharge their duties and also write widely and learnedly; but because, in spite of prohibiting any positive ministerial neglect, still would view the ministry of the Gospel as a means to another end. It is acknowledged that it is considered a noble means; and it is acknowledged that the end in view is quite the opposite of mean. But it cannot be consistent with the attitude of the Apostle to the Gentiles that preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ should be subordinated to any other purpose. And Coleridge’s rather skewed attitude is demonstrated a little lower on the same page:

That not only the maxims, but the grounds of a pure morality, the mere fragments of which
…the lofty grave tragedians taught
In chorus or iambic, teachers best
Of moral prudence, with delight received
In brief sententious precepts;
(Paradise Regained)

and that the sublime truths of the divine unity and attributes, which a Plato found most hard to learn and deemed it still more difficult to reveal; that these should have become the almost hereditary property of childhood and poverty, of the hovel and the workshop; that even to the unlettered they sound as commonplace, is a phenomenon, which must withhold all but the minds of the most vulgar cast from undervaluing the services even of the pulpit and the reading-desk. Yet those, who confine the efficiency of an established Church to its public offices, can hardly be placed in a much higher rank of intellect. That to every parish throughout the kingdom there is transplanted a germ of civilization; that in the remotest villages there is a nucleus, round which the capabilities of the place may crystallize and brighten; a model sufficiently superior to excite, yet sufficiently near to encourage and facilitate imitation; this, the inobtrusive, continuous agency of a Protestant Church establishment, this it is, which the patriot, and the philanthropist, who would fain unite the love of peace with the faith in the progressive amelioration of mankind, cannot estimate at too high a price.

Here the point to be emphasized is the curious connotation of the line, undervaluing the services even of the pulpit and the reading-desk. This does not seem to place the highest value on the work of the pulpit, and the following statements make it regrettably clear (for we would fain think well of Coleridge in all parts and relations) that he thinks of the civilizing influences of the Church above and beyond its saving influences. The point is not to undervalue the effects of the Gospel on society as a whole (though here too, I think we must expect more from the proclamation of Christ than from the discreet attendance at garden parties and the citation of Horace), but to lay the emphasis with Paul that it has pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe: their salvation is fundamental to other influences (at least those of a perdurable nature): and it is primary. We may have the former without the latter, but we shall never have the latter without the former.

Philosophical Points Practical Notes Quotations

Logic, reductio and secular learning

Augustine covers a lot of ground in this interesting quote from De Doctrina Christiana, Book 2, Chapters 31,32

There are also valid processes of reasoning which lead to false conclusions, by following out to its logical consequences the error of the man with whom one is arguing; and these conclusions are sometimes drawn by a good and learned man, with the object of making the person from whose error these consequences result, feel ashamed of them and of thus leading him to give up his error when he finds that if he wishes to retain his old opinion, he must of necessity also hold other opinions which he condemns. For example, the apostle did not draw true conclusions when he said, “Then is Christ not risen,” and again, “Then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain;” and further on drew other inferences which are all utterly false; for Christ has risen, the preaching of those who declared this fact was not in vain, nor was their faith in vain who had believed it.
But all these false inferences followed legitimately from the opinion of those who said that there is no resurrection of the dead. These inferences, then, being repudiated as false, it follows that since they would be true if the dead rise not, there will be a resurrection of the dead. As, then, valid conclusions may be drawn not only from true but from false propositions, the laws of valid reasoning may easily be learnt in the schools, outside the pale of the Church. But the truth of propositions must be inquired into in
the sacred books of the Church.

Practical Notes Quotations

Conformist Danger

Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam, “The Tyranny of Petty Coercion”

The present dominance of aspersion and ridicule in American public life is a reflex of the fact that we are assumed to want, and in many cases perhaps do want, attitude much more than information. If an unhealthy percentage of the population gets its news from Jay Leno or Rush Limbaugh, it is because they are arbiters of attitude. They instruct viewers as to what, within their affinity groups, it is safe to say and cool to think. That is, they short-circuit the functions of individual judgment and obviate the exercise of individual conscience. So it is to a greater or lesser degree with the media in general. It is painful to watch decent and distinguished people struggle to function politically in this non-rational and valueless environment.
Finally, granting that consensus enforcement, and the endless small concessions made to endless small coercions, are no doubt universal in human civilization, they cannot be without cost, precisely because they disable courage. No one can truly submit to unreasonable coercion—by suppressing one’s thinking, one’s identity, one’s metaphysics—without falling a little in one’s own estimation. And no one can deal in coercion without cynicism. Both sides of the transaction compromise.
Cultures commonly employ the methods of cults, making their members subject and dependent. And nations at intervals march lockstep to enormity and disaster. A successful autocracy rests on the universal failure of individual courage. In a democracy, abdications of conscience are never trivial. They demoralize politics, debilitate candor, and disrupt thought.

Practical Notes Quotations

Apologetical Advice

Austin Farrer, “The Christian Apologist” in Light on C.S. Lewis, Jocelyn Gibbs, ed.

[Speaking of differences in apologists] There is what one might call the Munich school, who will always sell the pass in the belief that their position can be more happily defended from foothills to the rear. Such people are not commonly seen as apologists. They are reckoned to be New Theologians. They are too busy learning from their enemies to do much in defence of their friends. The typical apologist is a man whose every dyke is his last ditch. He will carry the way into the enemy’s country; he will yield not an inch of his own.
The day in which apologetic flourishes is the day of orthodoxy in discredit; an age full of people talked out of a faith in which they were reared. To say that they want to believe if they could only see how is doubtless to simplify, for who are they? Which is the self, among all the warring selves in any breast? The very thing that reconversion does is to persuade a man to take a believing self as his fundamental self. We may say at the best that belief is a real (if smothered) attitude in such minds; and it is that offers an opening to the apologetic approach. ‘You have been rattled and browbeaten,’ says the apologist. ‘You have been sold a false image of faith and an inflated estimate of her enemies. Give faith her rights, and you will again believe.’—’Thank you, we will,’ replies a grateful audience.
It is commonly said that if rational argument is so seldom the cause of conviction, philosophical apologists must largely be wasting their shot. The premise is true, but the conclusion does not follow. For though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.
A voice which says ‘You must adopt the posture of an admittedly de-Christianized world; you may wriggle into a Christian attitude if you can’ is presuming that neither the authority of revelation nor the doctrine of original sin can be taken seriously.

Practical Notes Quotations

Worship of the State

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

He fingered the mound of faggots where the wooden martyr stood. That’s where all of us are standing now, he thought. On the fat kindling of past sins. And some of them are mine. Mine, Adam’s Herod’s, Judas’, Hannegan’s, mine. Everybody’s. Always culminates in the colossus of the State, somehow, drawing about itself the mantle of godhood, being struck down by the wrath of Heaven. Why? We shouted it loudly enough—God’s to be obeyed by nations as by men. Caesar’s to be God’s policeman, not His plenipotentiary successor, nor His heir. To all ages, all peoples—”Whoever exalts a race or a State or a particular form of State or the depositories of power … whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God….” Where had that come from? Eleventh Pius, he though, without certainty—eighteen centuries ago. But when Caesar got the means to destroy the world, wasn’t he already divinized? Only by the consent of the people—same rabble that shouted: “Non habemus regem nisi caesarem,” when confronted by Him—God Incarnate, mocked and spat upon. Same rabble that martyred Leibowitz….
“Caesar’s divinity is showing again.”

Practical Notes Quotations

Gender Heresy

Lord Voldemort posted this in reference to Stephen Boissoin’s letter.

The peculiar heresies of our generation are sexual heresies, and the Church has been slow to catch on. Thus it is that we take heart (pathetically) when some Christian leaders support women’s ordination, but still oppose homosexual marriage. Or they are silent on the abomination of sending women into combat, but can be pestered into registering their disapproval of a different abomination. But here it is — women’s ordination, women in combat, the breakdown of sexual standards for the unmarried, polygamy, pederasty, lesbian marriages, homosexual male marriages, bestiality, robo-sex, and virtual sex are all the same issue at the root.

And that root is this — will Christians submit to the authority of God in defining our sexual identity, roles, and lives? Or not? And will they grant that this sexual authority of God can only be honored in public ways? Private agreement will not cut it. Those Christians who respond affirmatively need to be preparing themselves for a full-scale collision with homo pervens. For those who prefer to waffle, the time will come when they are either swept away completely, or find themselvs sitting like Lot on the edge of the fountain in the city square of Sodom, saying, “Oh, dear,” but being very careful to say “Oh, dear” under their breath. They will either capitulate completely, unable with any consistency to draw a line somewhere, or they will draw an arbitrary (private) line that will give them something to wring their hands over. Or they will repent, across the board, and return to a sexual orthodoxy, prepared to affirm that orthodoxy in public.

Sexual orthodoxy prohibits ordination to women. It prohibits civil unions between homosexuals. It prohibits marriages between homosexuals. It recoils from the idea of sending women into combat. It does so because all the Bible is authoritative for all Christians throughout the course of all their lives. To do anything less is to capitulate completely. It does no good to preserve the integrity of 90% of the dam. To go soft on any of these issues is to go soft on all of them — whether that was intended or not.

To be sure, there are many other errors afflicting the church, from all of which Mr. Wilson himself is not, it seems to me, entirely free. But this makes quite obvious that it is past time to steel ourselves for the conflict. Will we speak God’s truth, or will we have the persons of militant homosexuals in admiration because of advantage? Let God be true and every man a liar: 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. 23 Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. (Leviticus 18:22,23).

Practical Notes Quotations

Excess Motivation

From S.T. Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria

It [his exhortation to youthful literati] will be but short; for the beginning, middle, and end converge to one charge: never pursue literature as a trade. With the exception of one extraordinary man, I have never known an individual, least of all an individual of genius, healthy or happy without a profession, i.e. some regular employment, which does not depend on the will of the moment, and which can be carried on so far mechanically that an average quantum only of health, spirits, and intellectual exertion are requisite to its faithful discharge. Three hours of leisure, unannoyed by any alien anxiety, and looked forward to with delight as a change and recreation, will suffice to realize in literature a larger product of what is truly genial, than weeks of compulsion. Money and immediate reputation form only an arbitrary and accidental end of literary labour. The hope of increasing them by any given exertion will often prove a stimulant to industry; but the necessity of acquiring them will in all work of genius convert the stimulant into a narcotic. Motives by excess reverse their very nature, and instead of exciting, stun and stupefy the mind.

Practical Notes Quotations

Orwell on Poverty and Cheap Luxury

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

So you have whole populations settling down, as it were, to a lifetime on the P.A.C. [Public Assistance Committee -RZ.] And what I think is admirable, perhaps even hopeful, is that they have managed to do it without going spiritually to pieces. A working man does not disintegrate under the strain of poverty as a middle-class person does. Take, for instance, the fact that the working class think nothing of getting married on the dole. It annoys the old ladies in Brighton, but it is a proof of their essential good sense; they realise that losing your job does not mean that you cease to be a human being. So that in one way things in the distressed areas are not so bad as they might be. Life is still fairly normal, more normal than one really has the right to expect. Families are impoverished, but the family-system has not broken up. The people are in effect living a reduced version of their former lives. Instead of raging against their destiny they have made things tolerable by lowering their standards.
But they don’t necessarily lower their standards by cutting out luxuries and concentrating on necessities; more often it is the other way about—the more natural way, if you come to think about it. Hence the fact that in a decade of unparalleled depression, the consumption of all cheap luxuries has increased. The two things that have probably made the most difference of all are the movies and the mass-production of cheap smart clothes since the war. The youth who leaves school at fourteen and gets a blind-alley job is out of work at twenty, probably for life; but for two pounds ten on the hire-purchase system he can buy himself a suit which for a little while and at a little distance, looks as though it had been tailored in Savile Row. The girl can look like a fashion plate at an even lower price. You may have three halfpence in your pocket and not a prospect in the world, and only the corner of a leaky bedroom to ho home to; but in your new clothes you can stand on the street corner, indulging in a private daydream of yourself as Clark Gable or Greta Garbo, which compensates you for a great deal. And even at home there is generally a cup of tea going—a “nice cup of tea”—and Father, who has been out of work since 1929, is temporarily happy because he has a sure tip for the Cesarewitch.
Trade since the war has had to adjust itself to meet the demands of underpaid, underfed people, with the result that a luxury is nowadays almost always cheaper than a necessity. One pair of plain solid shoes costs as much as two ultra-smart pairs. For the price of one square meal you can get two pounds of cheap sweets. You can’t get much meat for threepence, but you can get a lot of fish-and-chips. Milk costs threepence a pint and even “mild” beer costs fourpence, but aspirins are seven a penny and you can wring forty cups of tea out of a quarter-pound packet. And above all there is gambling, the cheapest of all luxuries. Even people on the verge of starvation can buy a few day’s hope (“Something to live for,” as they call it) by having a penny on a sweepstake. Organised gambling has now risen almost to the status of a major industry. Consider, for instance, a phenomenon like the Football Pools, with a turnover of about six million pounds a year, almost all of it from the pockets of working class people. I happened to be in Yorkshire when Hitler re-occupied the Rhineland. Hitler, Locarno, Fascism and the threat of war aroused hardly a flicker of interest locally, but the decision of the Football Association to stop publishing their fixtures in advance (this was an attempt to quell the Football Pools) flung all Yorkshire into a storm of fury. And then there is the queer spectacle of modern electrical science showering miracles upon people with empty bellies. You may shiver all night for lack of bedclothes, but in the morning you can go to the public library and read the news that has been telegraphed for your benefit from San Francisco and Singapore. Twenty million people are underfed but literally everyone in England has access to a radio. What we have lost in food we have gained in electricity. Whole sections of the working class who have been plundered of all they really need are being compensated, in part, by cheap luxuries which mitigate the surface of life.
Do you consider all this desirable? No, I don’t. But it may be that the psychological adjustment which the working class are visibly making is the best they could make in the circumstances. They have neither turned revolutionary nor lost their self-respect; merely they have kept their tempers and settled down to make the best of things on a fish-and-chip standard. The alternative would be God knows what continued agonies of despair; or it might be attempted insurrections which, in a strongly governed country like England, could only lead to futile massacres and a régime of savage repression.
Of course the post-war development of cheap luxuries has been quite a fortunate thing for our rulers. It is quite likely that fish and chips, art-silk stockings, tinned salmon, cut-price chocolate (five two-ounce bars for sixpence), the movies, the radio, strong tea and the Football Pools have between them averted revolution. Therefore we are sometimes told that the whole thing is an astute manouevre by the governing class—a sort of “bread and circuses” business—to hold the unemployed down. What I have seen of our governing class does not convince me that they have that much intelligence. The thing has happened, but by an unconscious process—the quite natural interaction between the manufacturer’s need for a market and the need of half-starved people for cheap palliatives.

Practical Notes Quotations

The Difficulty of Talking in the Modern World…

…is that everything you say can be easily, almost naturally, misconstrued. It works like this:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lectures on Shakespeare (from notes taken by John Payne Collier), transcript of Lecture 6

By manners he meant that which was dependent on the particular customs and fashions of the age. Even in a state of comparative barbarism of manners there might be and was morality. But we had seen much worse times than those, when the mind had been so enervated and degraded, that the most distant associations that could possibly connect our ideas with the basest feelings immediately brought forward those base feelings, without referring to the nobler, thus destroying the little remnant of humanity, excluding from the mind what is good, and calling forward what is bad to keep the bestial nature company.

Practical Notes Quotations Theological Reflections

Christ our Model

Augustine, Enchiridion, Chapter 53

All the events, then, of Christ’s crucifixion, of His burial, of His resurrection the third day, of His ascension into heaven, of His sitting down at the right hand of the Father, were so ordered, that the life which the Christian leads here might be modelled upon them, not merely in a mystical sense, but in reality. For in reference to His crucifixion it is said: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.” And in reference to His burial: “We are buried with Him by baptism into death.” In reference to His resurrection: “That, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. And in reference to His ascension into heaven and sitting down at the right hand of the Father: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”