Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Always Fight the Zeitgeist

Joe Carter is taking on the torture question:

Do Only Radical Pacifists Oppose Torture?
Thiessen's Catechism on Torture
Torture and Ticking Timebombs: A Christian Ethics Symposium
[ADDED LATER: Thiessen's Catechism on Torture (Part II)]

It always astounds me that there is any dispute here at all, much more that there is so much dispute, and for some of the defenses of these practices I have no patience whatsoever. If there is any topic that shows that Christians concede far, far more to the Zeitgeist than they should, this is one of them. The fundamental fact is that no Christian should ever support doing anything to anyone that they would not support doing to their own brother or sister, unless justice strictly requires it; and even then mercy should have a considerable say. Failure to do this introduces a massive incoherence into Christian life. Speaking about the relation between Christian life and the Zeitgeist, Schlegel in one of his lectures makes a comment that I think is quite appropriate here [Friedrich von Schlegel, The Philosophy of History, James Baron Robertson, tr. Bohn (London: 1846) pp. 474-475]:

Christianity is the emancipation of the human race from the bondage of that inimical spirit who denies God, and, as far as in him lies, leads all created intelligences astray. Hence the Scripture styles him, "the prince of this world;" and so he was in fact, but in ancient history only, when among all the nations of the earth, and amid the pomp of martial glory, and the splendour of Pagan life, he had established the throne of his domination. Since this divine era in the history of man, since the commencement of his emancipation in modern times, this spirit can no longer be called the prince of this world, but the spirit of time [Zeitgeist], the spirit opposed to divine influence, and to the Christian religion, apparent in those who consider and estimate time and all things temporal, not by the law and feeling of eternity, but for temporal interests, or from temporal motives, change, or undervalue it, and forget the thoughts and faith of eternity.

This is the key truth in the old slogan, semper reformanda. In the end there is one and only choice: you are either inspired by the Spirit of the Age, or you are inspired by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is the beginning of divine life; but the Spirit of the Age is always the beginning of hell itself, however much it may dress itself up as nobility, or honor, or passion for liberty, or worldly wisdom, or practicality. If you do not measure things by how they look when you love as God loves in Christ, you are not using a Christian measuring stick. It is not an easy standard, and we will fail at times to meet it, but it is the standard to which we are called.

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