Saturday, March 15, 2014

Resistance to False Gods


http://www.amazon.com/Aftermath-Provocations-David-Bentley-Hart/dp/0802845738
Dear Parish Faithful,

I continue to read David Bentley Hart, the brilliant Orthodox theologian/philosopher who has a "way with words" and yet simultaneously offers a trenchant critique of contemporary culture and an impassioned defense of the Christian revelation.  One of his most well-known essays is "Christ and Nothing (No Other God)" from his book of collected essays, In the Aftermath - Provocations and Laments. 

I am lifting a passage out of this article because it refers to the "Lenten privations" and the "Christian asceticism" that we embrace; but places these in the larger context of  a "refusal of secularization" that we must be vigilant about because it can lead us astray toward false gods.  His writing takes a good deal of careful reading and concentration, even in such a short passage as the following.  But the richness of his thought and the insights there on display are indeed "provocative" as Hart "laments" the moral morass and stagnation of the post-Christian world:

To have no god but the God of Christ, after all, means today that we must endure the Lenten privations of what is most certainly a dark age, and strive to resist the bland solace, inane charms, brute viciousness, and dazed passivity of post-Christian culture - all of which are so tempting precisely because they enjoin us to believe in and adore ourselves.  
It means also to remain aloof from many of the moral languages of our time, which are - even at their most sentimental, tender, and tolerant - usually as decadent and egoistic as the currently most fashionable vices.  
It means in short self-abnegation, contrarianism, a willingness not only to welcome but to condemn, and a refusal of secularization as resolute as the refusal of the ancient Christians to burn incense to the genius of the emperor.  
This is not an especially grim prescription, I should add:  Christian asceticism is not, after all, a cruel disfigurement of the will, contaminated by world-weariness or malice towards creation; it is a different kind of detachment, the cultivation of the pure heart and a pure eye, which allows one to receive the world and rejoice in it, not as a possession of the will or an occasion for the exercise of power, but as the good gift of God. It is, so to speak, a kind of Marian waiting upon the Word of God and its fruitfulness.  
Paradoxical as it may seem to modern temperaments, Christians asceticism is the practice of love, what Maximus the Confessor calls learning to see the logos of each thing within the Logos of God and it leads more properly to a grateful reverence ...

Take your time to "unpack" that paragraph and think upon these things!


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