The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Start of a Reaction?

It is good to see that there are twelve sane people left in this world.   It was starting to look doubtful that this many could be found.   Somebody managed to find them, however, and appointed them to the jury which last week unanimously found Kyle Rittenhouse “not guilty” of all the charges including first degree murder under which he was being persecuted.   No, that is not a typo.   



Now, since many people have spent the last two years hiding under their beds in their basements, sucking their thumbs and clutching their security masks tightly, hoping that the bat flu Bogeyman won’t get them before they can take the magic needle that will make him go away, at least until it is time for their next in an interminable series of jabs, it is possible that there are many people who don’t know the name Kyle Rittenhouse.   Granted, these are for the most part the sort of people who are the least likely to ever wish to read a word I have to say, but just in case this essay finds its way to one of them, I will remind you of who Kyle Rittenhouse is.



On the twenty-third of last August a woman in Kenosha, Wisconsin called 9-11 to report that her ex-boyfriend, against whom she had a restraining order, was trying to steal her vehicle.   The police, who had a warrant for this man’s arrest on charges of criminal trespass, sexual assault and domestic abuse involving the same woman, showed up.   The man, Jacob Blake, resisted arrest and, reaching into his ex’s SUV, probably for the knife he had there, was shot several times, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.   Since Blake was black and the cop who shot him was white, Kenosha soon found itself besieged by the same sort of agitators of racial violence and strife who had been rioting and looting and burning down cities all over the United States since earlier that year when George Floyd had become the only exception to the rule that anyone who dies with the bat flu virus in his system must be counted a bat flu death regardless of other co-morbidities not excluding decapitation and dismemberment.



A note about these agitators.   These are a new kind who make the shakedown hustlers of thirty-forty years ago – the kind brilliantly parodied by Tom Wolfe in the character of “Reverend Bacon” in his Bonfire of the Vanities – look tame by comparison.    The latter were, for the most part, merely concerned with using accusations of racism – and the threat of discrimination lawsuits – to browbeat companies into paying them off.   The new kind, who claim to be advocates of justice in the face of a society that holds black lives cheap, care very little themselves about the black lives that are taken by black criminals, although each year these far exceed the number of black lives taken by white cops.   A similar phenomenon can be found here in Canada in those who loudly proclaim that every child matters, although they never seem to include the thousands of unborn children lost each year in abortion, talking only about kids who died mostly of smallpox over the course of a century at the Indian Residential Schools, in an attempt to slander and libel our country and her churches with a trumped up charge of genocide.  It is actually quite rare for a white cop to kill an unarmed black man.   It only seems to be otherwise because every single time it happens the liberal allies of the race agitators in the media talk about nothing else for weeks, if not months.   Every such victim becomes a household name.  These new race agitators are driven by ideological racial hatred of the kind peddled by Ibram X. Kendi, Nicole Hannah-Jones, and Robin D’Angelo.   The kind that looks like it was plagiarized from the writings of Adolf Hitler, with “Jews” scratched out and “white people” written in on top.   Come to think of it, the same thing could be said, mutatis mutandis, about the rhetoric that most mainstream politicians, media commentators, and medical associations use about the “unvaccinated”.



Kyle Rittenhouse is a young man from Antioch, a village in Illinois that is just across the state border from Kenosha of which it is essentially a satellite community.   He was seventeen years old at the time and had come into the city the day after Blake was shot to stay with a friend.   The violence, looting, destruction, and general mayhem that had been begun the previous night continued into that one.    The next day, the sort of thing that the lying corporate news media liked to call a “peaceful protest” was scheduled to occur and, predictably, it broke out into a riot.   Rittenhouse and his friend, after participating in the city’s clean-up efforts earlier that day, went to an automobile dealership that had been targeted by the rioters the two nights previously.   They had armed themselves to protect the property.   Rittenhouse carried an AR-15 rifle that he kept at his friend’s house.   



Towards midnight, a serial pederast named Joseph Rosenbaum who had been convicted on multiple counts of raping prepubescent boys confronted Rittenhouse and, backed by a mob, chased him across a parking lot throwing things at him, before cornering him and attempting to seize his gun.   The mob urged him to kill Rittenhouse, but Rittenhouse – obviously in self-defense – pulled the trigger and fatally shot Rosenbaum.   Rittenhouse, heading towards the police to report the killing, was attacked by the mob.   One of them knocked his hat off, then, when he had tripped and fallen into the street, another jump kicked and curb stomped him.   Another rioter, Anthony Huber, also a convicted felon, grabbed the barrel of Rittenhouse’s gun and whacked him with his skateboard.   Rittenhouse, again in obvious self-defense, shot Huber in the chest, killing him.   At this point Gaige Grosskreutz, who claimed he was present as a volunteer paramedic and an observer for the American Civil Liberties Union, approached Rittenhouse.  When he was a few feet away from him, he pulled out his own Glock semi-automatic pistol for which his conceal-carry permit had expired (he had pleaded guilty three years previously to carrying a firearm while intoxicated).   Aiming it at Rittenhouse’s face, he lunged towards him.    Rittenhouse, still on the ground, shot Grosskreutz in the arm, wounding but not killing him.  He, that is Rittenhouse, then turned himself in to the police.   



Rittenhouse, if he had been the kind of dangerously violent serial killer/domestic terrorist the deceitful liberal corporate media later portrayed him as being, could easily have taken out dozens of people with the kind of semi-automatic rifle he was carrying.   He only shot three people, each of whom attacked him first, each of whom was a convicted criminal participating in a violent, rioting, mob.   Any sane, non-corrupt, prosecutor with any sense of justice and decency, would never have charged him with a crime at all, much less had him tried as an adult.   Especially when the media were already preparing to crucify him in their court of manufactured opinion.   As these events had taken place in the midst of a riot in which the state governor, city mayor, and other high civil officials had taken the side of the anarchistic mob and tied the hands of law and order, it is hardly a surprise that the prosecutor jumped on the “lynch Rittenhouse” bandwagon and charged him.



The liberal, or more accurately left-wing extremist, media subjected Rittenhouse to intense vilification.   It was not a mere Two Minutes Hate, as with Emmanuel Goldstein the object of the ire of Orwell’s Big Brother, or even a Hate Week, but what is now going on Fifteen Months of Hate.   They accused him of being a “white supremacist”, although they could produce no evidence of this accusation, such as statements of a racial supremacist nature that he had made or proof of his membership in a white supremacist organization.  



The accusation seemed particularly odd to several who took note of the fact that all three men whom he had shot were white.   They ought not to have been surprised.   Had they been paying attention they would have noticed that the extremely illiberal “liberal” left is now using “white supremacist”, which formerly was reserved for people ideologically committed to formal doctrines of white racial supremacy such as National Socialism and attached to groups that promote the same, the way they used to use “racist”, that is to say, as a slur thrown at anyone who stands up to their agenda, whether it is on a point that has anything to do with race or not.  



The crazier among them attempt to back up this practice with Critical Race Theory, the aforementioned anti-white ideological racial hatred that is promoted in academe.   It uses the same kind of irrationality that was employed by Susan Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin, and others in the lunatic fringe of the second-wave of feminism, a lunatic fringe that quickly became the mainstream of that movement, in coming up with their arguments for their positions that all men are rapists and that all heterosexual intercourse is rape.   Those arguments were along the following lines: rape is not about sex but about power, its function is to keep women subordinate to men, all men benefit from this whether they commit actual rape or not, all women are oppressed by this whether they are actual rape victims or not, therefore all women are victims and all men rapists, and because of the imbalance of power between the sexes there can be no real consent in heterosexual intercourse ergo it is all rape.   If you think I’m making any of this up, read Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (1975) and Dworkin’s Intercourse (1987).   Feminism has since doubled-down on this insanity and in women’s studies and gender studies courses across academe indoctrinate their victims with the idea that lesbianism is the norm and heterosexuality is a false social construct imposed upon women by the patriarchy.   Critical Race Theory imputes white supremacy to all who commit the sin of existing while white by a similar process which starts with the premise that everything in Western civilization, down to and including the words we speak and the way we do arithmetic, exists for the purpose of oppressing “people of colour” and empowering white people, especially white men.   It is this sort of nonsense that has so rotted the liberal mind that in a civic-minded young man, defending a business against attack from violent rioters, looters, and arsonists stirred up by agitators of racial strife and then killing in self-defense when said anarchists attacked him, they see something like a Klansman or a goose-stepping, swastika and jackboot wearing, sieg heiling skinhead.   Ironically, a strong case could be made that someone who actually is one of those things is today likely far less filled with dangerous and violent racial bigotry and hatred than the average “liberal” news commentator as  “Peter Simple”’s prejudometer might show if it actually existed.



Mercifully, despite the prosecutor’s politically-motivated mala fide prosecution and the left’s attempts to sabotage Rittenhouse’s chances of a fair trial by trying him in the media before the jury had a chance to hear the evidence much less deliberate, justice has prevailed.   Hopefully, Rittenhouse will now sue everyone from the creep currently occupying the top position of state in the American republic down for all the character assassination he has been forced to endure.   The Washington Post and CNN agreed to settle out of court with Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic high school student who was similarly subjected to a hate fest by these and other media after he was accosted by a drum-beating Native Indian activist while attending the March for Life at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC in 2019 and dared to stand his ground, over the multi-million dollar defamation suits his family filed against them.   While under ordinary circumstances I would be loath to suggest making an already too litigious society more so, the only way the corporate media is ever going to stop demonizing non-leftists in this manner is if enough such defamation suits cause them either to re-think their behaviour or to go bankrupt.



Predictably, the left has been throwing a collective tantrum ever since the verdict was announced.   Up here in the Dominion of Canada, the leader of the furthest to the left of all the parties with representation in the House of Commons, Jimmy Dhaliwal, issued an idiotic tweet in which he said that the verdict “feels like another failure by a broken system designed to protect some and hurt others”.    If you ever want to know what the truth about any hot topic issue is, find out what Jimmy Dhaliwal has said about it.   The truth will almost always be the exact opposite of that.



Down south, the left has just thrown one of their own, one Mary Lemanski who had been the social media director for the Democratic Party of DuPage County, Illinois under the bus for connecting the Rittenhouse acquittal to the actions of one Darrell Brookes Jr., who drove into a crowd during the Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Sunday, killing five people and leaving about forty more wounded.   Lemanski called the act “karma” and said “You reap what you sow, Wisconsin”, tweeting out that “it was probably self-defense”, as if mowing down a crowd with a car was the same thing as shooting three people who were attacking you.  This is the sort of confusion that is only to be expected from the sort of twits who do not understand the difference between what Kyle Rittenhouse was doing in Kenosha - protecting property as a private person against the threat of destructive crime and vigilante justice.   The latter is what happens when private persons, after a crime has been committed, track down the person they think or know to be guilty, and exact vengeance upon him as cop, judge, jury, and executioner rolled into one.  Whether the verdict was connected to Brookes’ act in the sense of being its motivation, or part of its motivation, is not yet clear, although the vehemence with which some portions of the left are denying it would seem to suggest that it probably was.   Indeed, I only bring this up because what happened to Lemanski is so unusual.  The left does not ordinarily police its own for language considered to be extreme in this way.    This suggests that they are terrified that more people will make the same connection that she did, although racial activist Vaun Mayes said something similar – he suggested that Brookes’ actions were the “start of a revolution” in response to the verdict, and does not seem to have been punished for it.



For my part, I hope the Rittenhouse acquittal is the start of a reaction – that “opposite of a revolution” that the great Joseph de Maistre called for - and a return to common sense, law and order, the right of self-defense, and all other aspects of civilization that have been in short order during the racial madness of recent years.


Friday, November 19, 2021

Faith and Knowledge

 Most people are of the opinion that the truths that we accept by faith are less certain than those that we consider to be knowledge.   This is reflected in the way they use the verbs “believe” and “know” and their equivalents in other languages.   When someone says “I believe X” and “I know Y” it is usually safe to infer from this that he is more sure of Y than he is of X.   Most people, although perhaps not quite as many, infer from this that faith is inferior to knowledge.



Those of us who are Christians ought not to think this way.  



Consider how Bishop Pearson explained the distinction between belief and knowledge in his Exposition of the Creed. (1)   He began by defining belief (in general) as “an Assent to that which is credible, as credible” and by defining assent as “that act or habit of the understanding, by which it receiveth, acknowledgeth, and embraceth any thing as a truth”.  He then went on to explain that assent was more general than belief or faith, and to distinguish the latter from other forms of assent in terms of their objects.   The difference was in what makes “that which is credible” credible:



For he which sees an action done, knows it to be done, and therefore assents unto the truth of the performance of it because he sees it: but another person to whom he relates it, may assent unto the performance of the same action, not because himself sees it, but because the other relates it; in which case that which is credible is the object of Faith in one, of evident knowledge in the other.



Bishop Pearson expanded on this by providing several different ways in which the truth of something is apparent to us and thus our assent to it is properly knowledge rather than faith.   Something might be apparent to our senses (the examples he gives are the whiteness of snow and the heat of fire) or to our understanding (“the whole of anything is greater than any one part of the whole”).   Things which are apparent in these ways are more properly described as being evident than as being credible.   Then there are things which are not evident in these ways, but the truth of which we can establish through their “immediate and necessary connection with something formerly known”.   These things, he described as “scientifical”.   Note that this term as he uses it is not only an archaic form but also more comprehensive than our “scientific”.   He used mathematics as an example of a science, demonstrating thereby that his “scientifical” embraced the products of both methodologies in the Rationalism v. Empiricism debate which, at least in its Modern phase, was in its infancy at the time he preached these sermons.



He then said:


But when anything propounded to us is neither apparent to our sense, nor evident to our understanding, in and of itself, neither certainly to be collected from any clear and necessary connection with the cause from which it proceedeth, or the effects which it naturally produceth, nor is taken up upon any real arguments, or reference to other acknowledged truths, and yet not withstanding appeareth to us true, not by a manifestation but attestation of the truth, and so moveth us to assent not of itself, but by virtue of the testimony given to it: this is said properly to be credible; and an Assent unto this, upon such credibility, is in the proper notion Faith or Belief.



After distinguishing between faith and knowledge, Bishop Pearson then went on to distinguish between different kinds of faith based upon the different kinds of authority of those whose testimony makes that which is believed credible.   The authority of those offering testimony, he said, rests upon both their ability and integrity.   Someone lacking the former might be deceived himself and so deceive others with his testimony unintentionally.   Someone lacking the latter might deliberately deceive others.   The authority of human testifiers greatly varies and may be deficient in one or both of these foundations, but God, Whose testimony may be immediate, as it was to Noah, Moses, the Prophets, and the Apostles, or mediate, as passed on through these human messengers, is perfect in both ability and integrity and so can neither be deceived Himself nor deliberately deceive others.   Faith based upon Divine Testimony, therefore, is the truest of faiths, and so, with regards to the “I believe” that begins the Creed, Bishop Pearson said that it is:



[T]o assent to the whole and every part of it, as to a certain and infallible truth revealed by God (who by reason of his infinite knowledge cannot be deceived, and by reason of his transcendent holiness cannot deceive) and delivered unto us in the writings of the blessed Apostles and Prophets, immediately inspired, moved, and acted by God, out of whose writings this brief sum of necessary points of Faith was first collected.



Now, for the very same reasons why faith in God’s Word is more certain than faith in human testimony, that is to say, that God Himself is by contrast with human authorities a sure and infallible testifier, faith in God’s Word is more certain than human knowledge.   Just as human authorities can fail us through ignorance or the intent to deceive, so the senses and understanding by which we perceive what is apparent and evident and comprehend what must necessarily follow fall short of the infallibility of the witness of God.



Dr. Edward F. Hills wrote:



He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.  (Heb. 11:6b)   If I truly believe in God, then God is more real to man than anything else I know, more real even than my faith in Him.   For if anything else is more real to me than God Himself, then I am not believing but doubting.   I am real, my experiences are real, my faith is real, but God is more real.   Otherwise I am not believing but doubting.   I cast myself on that which is most real, namely, God Himself.    I take God and Jesus Christ His Son as the starting point of all my thinking. (2)



If by God, we mean the God that orthodox Christianity has always proclaimed, taught, and confessed belief in, then that which Dr. Hills has affirmed must necessarily follow.   The God of orthodox Christianity is the God of the Old Testament as well as the New.  The very first verse of the Bible declares that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.   When Moses asked Him for His name He declared “I AM”.   This God is the Creator of everything else that exists, Whose Being is eternal and in Himself in a way that cannot be said of anything created.   Whereas the classical philosophers distinguished between things which exist in themselves, and things which exist only in other things, apple as an example of the former, redness as an example of the latter, even things which exist in themselves in this sense, are in other senses dependent upon other things for their existence.   The apple you eat today, would not have existed had the tree on which it grew not existed first.   That tree would not have existed, had it not been planted from a previous example – and so on, all the way back to the first apple tree, which was created directly by God, the uncreated Source of all being.   If everything else depends upon God for its existence, and God as the Source of all being exists eternally in Himself independent of anything else, then God must necessarily be more real than anything else.   Faith in God, therefore, must be the starting point of our thinking, for such faith is more certain, not only than faith in the testimony of human authorities, but that which we presume to call our “knowledge”.



In connection with all of this, an important observation can be made about the Scriptural account of the Fall of man.   Man, the book of Genesis tells us, was created in the image of God and placed in a Garden, which God had prepared for him in the land of Eden, in which “out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food” (Gen. 2:9).   Two specific trees are identified, “the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” and God, after putting man into the Garden, gave him the following commandment:   “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17).     While the exact nature of the “knowledge of good and evil” is something that Jewish and Christian theologians have debated for millennia, (3) the account makes it clear that in the prohibition on eating the fruit of the tree, it was this specific kind of knowledge that was forbidden to man.



In the third chapter of Genesis the serpent, whom the Book of Revelation in the New Testament identifies with Satan, deceives Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.   She in turn gives the fruit to Adam, who also eats.   Their sin is discovered and they incur a number of curses in judgement, the most important of which was that they were driven out of the Garden, barred from the tree of life, and thus assigned to the hard life of human mortality.   In the midst of the judgement, the first promise of the Redemption that God would eventually give to mankind in His Incarnate Son Jesus Christ is made (Gen. 3:15).   The observation that is important for our purposes here pertains to the deception that brought about the Fall.   When the serpent deceived Eve, he began with a question “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1) which, after Eve had answered, he followed up by directly contradicting God “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen 3:4) and tempting Eve with the forbidden knowledge by making it appear desirable in a way that stoked pride and vanity “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5).    Note how each part of this deception was designed to progressively undermine faith in God’s word.   The initial question subtly introduced an element of doubt, the contradiction invited outright disbelief, and implicit in the temptation was the suggestion that by withholding the forbidden knowledge from man God was acting against man’s interests out of selfishness, an aspersion on God’s character that led to mistrust.   Therefore, in this temptation the serpent was presenting the kind of knowledge that had been forbidden to man as being preferable to faith.   This then is the source of that common notion that we have been rebutting in this essay that knowledge is superior to faith.   



It would be a mistake to conclude from this that all knowledge of every type is treated as being opposed to God and faith in Scripture.   The majority of Scriptural references to knowing and knowledge are positive.   God’s own knowledge, obviously, is always good.   Indeed, whatever the “knowledge of good and evil” was, it was appropriate and good in God (Gen. 3:22).   God’s knowledge, as discussed above, is foundational to faith in God.   God is all-knowing (1 Kings 8:39, Job 37:16, Psalm 139:4, Matthew 6:8, 1 John 3:20 to give but a handful of the references which speak of God’s omniscience using forms of the word “know”, themselves but a fraction of the Scriptural testimony to God’s omniscience as there are even more references which express the concept using other terms, such as speaking of God as “seeing” and “understanding” all things).    This is why the element of His credibility that Bishop Pearson called “ability” is absolute.   He cannot be deceived.      Most Scriptural references to human knowledge are also positive, however.   Knowledge is spoken of as a gift of God, as, for example, in the cases of the workmen appointed to make the Tabernacle and its furnishings in the book of Exodus.   King Solomon is commended by God for asking for “wisdom and knowledge” in the first chapter of II Chronicles.   Job and his counsellors are rebuked for speaking “without knowledge”, when God speaks at the end of the book of Job.    The Psalmist describes God as He who “teacheth man knowledge” (Psalm 94:10).    The book of Proverbs says that knowledge is to be desired above material wealth (Prov. 8:10).   These are but a few examples.   The Scriptures also repeatedly speak of the “knowledge of God”, in the sense of man’s knowing God, as something to be desired and sought after.   In His prayer, at the end of His discourse en route to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ said “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”. (Jn. 17:3).  Since the Gospel in which this is recorded repeatedly stresses that eternal life is a gift from God that we receive by believing in Jesus Christ – the Fourth Evangelist states this or quotes somebody else saying it in one way or another about one hundred times – the Lord was either equating faith with knowledge in this verse, or speaking of a knowledge that is received by faith.



Most often when the Scriptures speak of knowing and knowledge negatively, it is either a false knowledge, that is to say, someone thinks he has knowledge but does not, or knowledge that has been overvalued.   To place too high of a value on something that is good in itself, by, for example, valuing the good over the better, or the better over the best, is to commit an error that is comparable to literal idolatry (placing the creature in the place of the Creator) and which can have similar consequences.    When the devil tempted Eve to choose forbidden knowledge over faith this was an example of overvaluing true knowledge.  Very early in Christian history, heretical sects arose which challenged the teachings of the orthodox leaders of the Church and the Christian faith, in the name of a special kind of “knowledge”.    When this happened, the “knowledge” so valued over orthodox faith in God, was false knowledge.



History knows the heretics in question by the name “Gnostics.”   The way historians use this term it is not the designation of any one specific sect, but is rather a categorical label applying to a broad class of heretical groups.     The early Church Fathers who contended for the orthodox faith against the Gnostics usually referred to them as heretics, or by the name of their specific heresy which was typically the name of its first or chief proponent.   St. John the Apostle writing in canonical Scripture called them by a stronger name - "antichrists".   St. John's account of them was that they were schismatics who had broken away from the Apostolic Church and apostates who had departed from the orthodox faith by denying the Incarnation.   According to such early Church Fathers as St. Justin Martyr, (4) St. Irenaeus of Lyons, (5) and St. Hippolytus of Rome, (6) the first of these sects was the Simonians, founded by Simon Magus - the Samaritan magician who heard St. Philip preach the Gospel in the eighth chapter of Acts and was baptized but who came under St. Peter's curse when he offered money in exchange for the power of the Apostolic ministry of conveying the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands.    Nevertheless, the label Gnostic suits our purposes here because it points to the very element of their thinking that is relevant.  When the members of these sects referred to themselves as γνωστικοί (gnostikoi) it was with the literal sense of “those with γνῶσῐς”.    The Greek word γνῶσῐς (gnosis), like its Latin equivalent scientia and its English equivalent, was a noun formed from the verb meaning “I know” - γιγνώσκω (gignosko) in Greek, scio in Latin (7) – and it was the basic Greek word for “knowledge”.   The way the Gnostics used it, however it did not mean knowledge in general, but a special kind of “knowledge” that they regarded as their unique and elite possession.   It is likely this to which St. Paul referred when he warned St. Timothy to “keep that which is committed to thy trust”, i.e., the Christian faith, against “the oppositions of science falsely so-called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).    The Greek words rendered “science falsely so called” in the Authorized Bible, using the older, more general meaning of “science” are ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως, the first of which is recognizably the source of our “pseudonym”, the second of which is the genitive singular form of γνῶσῐς.



The so-called “knowledge” of Gnosticism stands in sharp contrast to orthodox Christian faith.    In the orthodox Christian faith, the God Whom Jesus Christ called Father is identical to the God Who created the heavens and the earth in the Old Testament.   This is clearly stated in the first Article of both Creeds (8) and is also obviously the plain teaching of Jesus Christ and the New Testament.  This God is Creator of everything other than God Himself that exists, spiritual and physical, or, in the words of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed “all things visible and invisible”.   The corruption of sin and evil, in the orthodox Christian faith, has infected all of Creation, and began in the unseen or spiritual part of Creation, before the Fall of man, with the rebellion of Satan and the angels who followed him.    The salvation that God sent His Only-Begotten Son Jesus Christ to accomplish, extends to all parts of Creation affected by the corruption of sin and so will ultimately include the corporeal resurrection of the redeemed (1 Cor. 15:12-58) and the redemption of all of physical Creation (Rom. 8:19-23).   Although the redeemed are sometimes spoken of as God’s “elect” (chosen), salvation is freely offered to all through a message, the Gospel, that is to be preached to “every creature” (Mk. 16:15).   Everyone is invited to believe that Gospel and by believing receive the saving grace of God.  



Gnosticism taught the exact opposite with regards to each of these points.   The Gnostics taught that spirit was pure and incorruptible and matter was irredeemably corrupt therefore both could not have come from the same God.   They taught a supreme deity they called “The One”, from whom lesser divinities they called aeons emanated.   These divinities, they taught, dwelt in a realm of light called the pleroma.   The aeons were grouped in male-female pairs, which in turn would emanate other lower aeons.  One of the lowest pair of aeons, in their teaching, was Sophia (this is the Greek word for “wisdom), which left the pleroma and gave birth to the Demiurge.   This name, the Gnostics borrowed from Plato’s Timaeus.  Like the title character of Plato’s dialogue, they taught that the Demiurge created the material or physical world.    Unlike Plato’s Timaeus they taught that he was evil and so was his creation.   Gnostics who made reference to the Old Testament identified the God of the Old Testament with the Demiurge.   Assisting the Demiurge in creating the physical world and ruling it, in Gnostic theology, were lesser evil divinities called archons, whose total number varied from Gnostic sect to Gnostic sect, although usually there were seven chief ones whom the Gnostics identified with various heavenly bodies. The Demiurge and his archons, according to Gnosticism, imprisoned sparks of divinity from the pleroma within physical bodies, creating human beings.   Salvation, in Gnostic theology, was a release of these divine sparks from the imprisonment of the physical back into the pure spiritual world of the pleroma.   Salvation was attained, the Gnostics claimed, through enlightenment, the achieving of “knowledge” (gnosis).   This “knowledge” did not come in a message that was to be generally preached to all, but was something revealed to individuals through personal experience with the divine of which only an elite few had the capacity.



Clearly, the core teachings of orthodox Christianity and those of heretical Gnosticism were antithetical to each other.    Just as clear is the fact that this total antithesis grew out of the fact that whereas orthodox Christianity identified itself as a faith - a set of truths  which when proclaimed to the world as a kerygma are called the Gospel ("Good News") and when spoken as a personal and communal confession are called the Creed, both of which terms point to the fact that these truths are accepted by faith,  that is to say, believed on the authority of God's Word, Gnosticism  embraced what it regarded as a special, elite, esoteric "knowledge" rather than the orthodox faith.



Unlike the knowledge that Satan tempted Eve to abandon faith for, the gnosis of the Gnostics was a false knowledge, and quite likely, as stated previously, explicitly called such by the Apostle Paul in Scripture.   In the Modern Age, what was formerly Christendom or Christian civilization, was transformed into what is now called by the secular name of Western Civilization through its permeation by a philosophical spirit that can for lack of a better term be called “liberalism” although it needs to be understood that by this a more general, underlying, attitude is meant rather than the specific philosophical and political formulations that have borne name.    This liberalism places no value whatsoever in the testimony of God, reduces faith in God to personal experience and opinion, and places its own supreme confidence in the rational faculties of mankind.   One of the fruits of this liberalism, has been the exaltation of something that bears the name of “knowledge” – this time the Latin term, Anglicized into “science” – to the level of the highest truth.   What is this thing that Modern name calls by the name of knowledge and prizes so highly?



At its most basic level it is merely man’s attempts to explain the phenomena of the physical world strictly by means of other phenomena within the same.   As such it is ancient, going back at least as far as Thales of Miletus in the seventh to sixth centuries BC.   At a somewhat higher level it is the methodology devised for these attempts involving observation, hypothesizing, and experimentation.   Depending upon how you look at it there have been either several such methodologies or several major revisions of the same methodology.    Aristotle’s method was the most influential in the pre-Modern world.   Sir Francis Bacon’s was one of the earliest of the Modern versions.   His most important treatise setting forth that method was a direct attack on Aristotle as is evident in the title: Novum Organum - Ὄργανον (Organon) was the title given by Aristotle’s students to the published collection of his books on logic.   Aristotle’s methodology had stressed deductive reasoning, Bacon’s emphasized inductive reasoning.   It was in his unfinished novella New Atlantis, however, that Bacon provided us with the key to understanding why Modern man has come to so value “science”.   The end or goal of “science” or “natural philosophy” as he called it – a much better and more accurate name – he placed in the words of the mission statement of his fictional Salomon’s House foundation: “the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things: and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.”   Modern “science” has been exponentially more efficient at achieving this end than any prior “science” which translates into its having more effectively produced results.    This establishes its utilitarian value which Modern man, increasingly incapable of distinguishing between utility and truth, confuses with its epistemic value.   To any sane mind, however, it must be regarded as a mixed blessing at best.   The same “science” that gave us life-saving penicillin, also gave us life-threatening nuclear weapons.   Even before the invention of the atomic bomb, wise minds as disparate as Queen Victoria’s Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson and German historian and prophet of doom Oswald Spengler perceived Modern “science” as a Faustian bargain after Faust who exchanged his soul for knowledge.   Spengler described Modern Western “scientific” culture as Faustian.   Tennyson allowed his readers to infer the same from his poem Ulysses, in which he places the spirit of Modern Western “scientific” adventurism in the words of his title character’s determination to “follow knowledge like a falling star/Beyond the utmost bound of human thought” and against all forces arrayed against him to “strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”, spoken as that character sets out on that final voyage that landed him in the eighth circle of Hell where he is depicted recounting it to Dante in Inferno, Canto XXVI.



So is this “science” a true knowledge like the “knowledge of good and evil” with which Eve was tempted, or a false “knowledge” like the gnosis of the Simonians, Valentians, Sethians, et al.?



“Science” obviously contains much true knowledge.   This is to be found in the raw materials of “science”, the facts or data drawn from observation, which are knowledge in the sense that Bishop Pearson used the term when distinguishing it from “belief” or “faith”.   The hypotheses, theories, and laws by which these facts are interpreted and explained are another story.   While the liberal spirit of the Modern world ascribes truth to every proclamation of “science”, “science” makes no such claim for itself.   If it did, it would never have accomplished anything.   To give but one example, if Max Planck and Albert Einstein had taken the same attitude towards the physics of Sir Isaac Newton, that those who tell us to “follow the science’ with regards to climate change or the bat flu take, they never would have developed quantum mechanics and the theories of relativity.   In the twentieth century, Sir Karl Popper made a compelling case for falsifiability as the litmus test of whether a theory is genuinely “scientific”, rather than the “verifiability” of logical positivism.   To be falsifiable and therefore “scientific”, a theory had to be susceptible to being disproven under examination.   A theory that cannot be so falsified, whatever else it might be, is not “scientific”.   Something that is susceptible to falsification, however, cannot be said to be true, or at the very least, it cannot be said to be known to be true.   At the explanatory level, therefore, “science” is neither truth nor true knowledge, heresy though this undoubtedly be to the ears of the liberal “follow the science” crowd.



The “knowledge” that Modern man values highly over faith is, therefore, a mixture of true knowledge and false knowledge.   Moreover the true knowledge within it, is clearly of a lesser order of knowledge.   Consider the example of nuclear weapons from the previous paragraph.   While the observable facts that are the true knowledge in science were the raw material from which the physicists devised the theories that enabled them to build the atomic bomb these same facts clearly did not provide them with the knowledge that they ought not to have done anything of the sort.   Whether they had that knowledge from other sources and chose willingly to ignore it or whether they did not have it at all is beside the point.   Such knowledge could not have come from the facts of the science of physics themselves.  The knowledge that one ought not to create weapons that can wipe out entire cities with a single blow and threaten all life on earth is a higher and more important kind of knowledge than the lesser and lower knowledge that gives scientists the ability to invent such things.    The knowledge within Modern medical science has enabled doctors to perform organ transplants, blood transfusions, and other life-saving surgeries.   It has not, however, provided them with the knowledge that civil liberties should not be put on hold, police states established, social isolation imposed upon everybody, businesses, livelihoods and savings destroyed to stop a respiratory disease from spreading too fast and overwhelming their hospitals.    Nor has it provided them with the knowledge that first-of-their-kind vaccines that have not completed their clinical trials should not be imposed upon people by threatening them with exclusion from society, loss of employment, and the like until they “consent” to taking the vaccines.   Since, until quite recently, this knowledge was widespread, informing international agreements and laws, it would seem that Modern medical science has had the effect of driving this higher, more important, knowledge out.    


Modern man, therefore, has clearly placed far too high a value on scientific knowledge.    In doing so, he has embraced the same kind of error that produced Gnosticism and the same kind of error that brought about the Fall of man.   The testimony of God is the highest possible Truth, and faith in that testimony is the highest path to Truth available to man, superior to all forms of genuine knowledge attainable by human effort, and especially to spurious types of knowledge, or lower kinds of genuine knowledge such as those found in science.



(1)   John Pearson (1613-1686) was consecrated Bishop of Chester in 1672.   The work referred to was first published in 1659 and was compiled from sermons he had given at St. Clement’s, Eastscheap in London after he had been appointed preacher there five years previously.   It is an explanatory commentary on the Apostles’ Creed that is very thorough, going through the Creed Article by Article, and indeed, clause by clause – sometimes word by word – within the Articles.   Quotations here are taken from the first volume of the 1843 Oxford University Press edition, edited by the Reverend Doctor E. Burton, Regius Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church.   They all come from the exposition of the words “I believe” which begin the first Article, which exposition starts on page 2 and continues to page 22.

(2)   Edward Freer Hills, Believing Bible Study, 3rd edition, Christian Research Press Ltd., Des Moines, Iowa, 1967, 1991.    Several sections of this book are near identical to ones found in the same author’s The King James Version Defended.   The paragraph quoted is one such paragraph.   Whereas it is the fourth paragraph of the first chapter of Believing Bible Study it is also the second last paragraph of the second chapter of The King James Version Defended.

(3)  One interpretation is that the “knowledge of good and evil” meant to experience both good and evil in man’s own existence, a problem with which interpretation is that God, within Whom there is no evil, affirms that He possesses this knowledge.   Another interpretation is that by expressing the opposite poles of “good” and “evil” this was meant to comprehend everything in between and thus “knowledge of everything” or omniscience was meant.   While this is consistent with God’s describing the knowledge as being like His Own, mankind obviously did not become omniscient in the Fall.

(4)   Apologia Prima, xxvi.

(5)   Adversus Haereses, I.xxiii, IV, VI.xxxiii.

(6)  Refutatio Omnium Haeresium, and especially VI.ii, iv-xv.

(7)  There is another Latin verb for “know” which is obviously cognate with the Greek word.   This is gnosco, gnoscere, which was frequently used in compounds with many, ahem, recognizable English derivatives, including the one just highlighted, and the one used in the first sentence of this note.  Nevertheless, the functional equivalent of γιγνώσκω was scio.   Both were the primary verbs for knowing in their respective languages.

(8)“Creed” comes from the Latin credo – “I believe”.  The Latin texts of both the Apostles’ and Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creeds begin with this word, although the plural credimus (“we believe”) is sometimes used.   There is another ancient statement of faith that is commonly called a Creed, the Athanasian.   It does not begin with this word but with “Quicumque vult” (“Whosoever will”).   Its form, therefore, is more properly that of a kerygma – the faith proclaimed as a message for others – than a Creed – the faith expressed as a confession of personal/communal belief.   It is obviously, however, a more precise – in the case of the doctrine of Trinity extremely precise – expansion of the Apostles’ Creed, which is where its common title presumably comes from. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Donatist Dilemma


In the early centuries of Christian history the orthodox had to contend with hundreds of heretical and schismatic movements.   Except among apologists and ecclesiastical historians, only a handful of these are remembered by name today.   Gnosticism, the first proponents of which challenged the authority and teachings of the Apostles themselves, was not the name of a specific heretical movement but the collective term for a large class of heretical movements.     Valentinianism, after Valentinus of Alexandria, was one such movement that was widespread in the second century and was the main heresy against which St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote.   The ideas that the term Gnosticism usually brings to mind today more properly belong to Marcionism, named after Marcion of Sinope.    Historians are divided as to whether Marcionism is properly classified as Gnostic or whether it is best regarded as a heresy that deviated from both Gnosticism and orthodox Christianity.


The heresies that are still widely known by name are the major heresies that were addressed by the four earliest ecumenical Councils, the two that put together the most basic and fundamental of Christian Creeds (1) in the fourth century, i.e., the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD), and the two that resulted in the Christological clarification of the Definition of Chalcedon in the fifth century, i.e., the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) and the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD).   In one way or another the heresies addressed by these Councils deviated from orthodoxy as to the Person and Nature of Jesus Christ.   Arianism, which takes its name from Arius of Alexandria and which was the principal heresy addressed by the Creed-forming Councils of the fourth century, denied the full deity of Jesus Christ and taught that He was a created being possessed of a lesser divinity than the Father.   Nestorianism, named after Nestorius of Constantinople, the principal heresy addressed by the fifth century Councils, stressed the distinction between the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ to the point where the unity of His Person was compromised.   This latter is a good illustration of the general nature of heresy which is not, as is often supposed, merely “wrong doctrine”.   Heresy is a truth taken out of the context of other equal or more important, balancing truths, and so twisted by exaggeration into an error that is far more dangerous than something that it is merely and entirely false.   G. K. Chesterton in his biography of William Blake (1910) said that “A fad or heresy is the exaltation of something which, even if true, is secondary or temporary in its nature against those things which are essential and eternal, those things which always prove themselves true in the long run”.   T. S. Eliot in After Strange Gods (1933) wrote that “the essential of any important heresy is not simply that it is wrong: it is that it is partly right.”


If we were to poll Christians, asking them to name and rank a few of the early heresies, it is unlikely that we would find many for whom Donatism would be at the top of their list.   Indeed, while I hope I am too cynical and am completely wrong in this, I suspect that if we were to instead provide that name and ask people to identify it, many would associate it with Donatello, the fifteenth century Florentine Renaissance sculptor – or the Ninja Turtle who bears his name. 


Donatism has nothing to do with either sculptor or Ninja Turtle, of course.   It takes its name from the fourth century figure Donatus Magnus, a priest from the Berber settlement of Casae Nigrae in Numidia, which is now the town of Negrine in Algeria.   With Donatus and his followers, it was not a dispute over doctrine that separated them from the orthodox Church as it was with the aforementioned heresiarchs Valentius, Marcion, Arius and Nestorius and their sects, but rather a dispute over practice.   It would be more accurate therefore to describe Donatism as schismatic rather than heretical, although the schism, as we shall see, eventually corrupted the doctrine of the schismatics.   It deviated from orthopraxis (sound practice), however, in much the same way that heresy deviates from orthodoxy (sound doctrine) – by taking a part of sound practice and emphasizing it to the point that other parts fell by the wayside.    The part of sound practice they so over-emphasized was holiness or separation from the world. (2)


The Donatist schism had its origins in the persecution of Christians in the reign of Diocletian.   This was the largest and harshest persecution of Christians in the history of the Roman Empire.   Previous persecutions had usually been local affairs, conducted with the authority or at least toleration of a regional governor.   This one came down from the very top and in theory covered the entire Empire, although in actuality certain regions were far more severely affected than others.   The severity of this persecution made it unpopular which contributed to the Roman Empire’s reversing course ten years after it began and issuing the Edict of Milan which legalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and granted it protection against persecution.


North Africa was a region that was particularly severely affected by the Great Persecution, as it had been during the lesser persecutions of the previous century.   It was almost, in a sense, the epicentre of the Persecution.   In 302 AD, Diocletian had issued an edict outlawing the Manichaeans, ordering that their leaders be burned along with their books and any of their followers who didn’t recant.   The Manichaeans were the followers of Mani, a third century Persian religious teacher who blended ideas from Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Gnosticism, and whose teachings were noted for their dualism.   Their teachings had spread from the Persian Empire westward and had become particularly influential in the academic centres of Egypt and North Africa. (3)   Diocletian had been persuaded that they were a subversive movement acting on behalf of the Persian Empire to infiltrate and weaken Rome.   Later that year, Diocletian’s ire would fall upon orthodox Christians when St. Romanus, a deacon of the Caesarean Church, denounced the pagan sacrifices that took place in his court at Antioch.   He was already ill-disposed towards Christianity because he blamed Christian members of his court for the failure of his attempts at divination after the Roman victory against the Persians in the Battle of Satala and the renewal of peace with the Sassanid dynasty.   Diocletian was, therefore, already half persuaded when his co-emperor Galerius (4) began to talk him into extending towards orthodox Christianity the same policy he had taken towards Manichaeism – persecution with the end of total extirpation.   While he initially proposed a more moderate persecution, his resistance to Galerius’ proposal was overcome when the two sent away to the oracle at the Temple to Apollo in Didyma and were told that Apollo was silent because of the presence of Christianity in the Empire.   In February of 303 AD, he and his co-emperors began issuing a series of edicts that forbade Christians from assembling to worship and ordered the Christian Scriptures and other Christian literature to be burned, Christian Church buildings to be destroyed, and Christian clergy to be imprisoned and stripped Christians of all the legal rights of Roman citizens.


Although all Christians were targeted by this persecution, the clergy - the bishops and priests who led, taught, and officiated in the Churches - were particularly hit hard.   While many of these remained faithful to the point of martyrdom, many others did not.   These handed over their copies of the Bible to the Roman soldiers to be burned.    Often they handed over the names of other Christians as well.   This earned them the label traditores, meaning “those who handed over” which is the root of our word traitor.  (5)


Mensurius, who was Bishop of Carthage at the time, removed the Scriptures from the Church building and hid them in his own home, substituting heretical writings in their place for the soldiers to seize.    While he thus cleverly avoided becoming a traditor himself, this act was not exactly impressive to those who contrasted his example unfavourably with that of those who submitted to arrest, torture, and death.   It did not help his image any that the contrast was particularly great with his own predecessor in the See of Carthage, St. Cyprian, who had been martyred in the earlier persecution under Valerian, less than half a century prior to this.   Mensurius then forbade the Carthaginian Church from honouring as martyrs any who initiated their own martyrdom by defiantly turning themselves in to the Roman authorities.    Needless to say, he was far from being the most admired bishop in the Christian Church at the time.  


Mensurius died in 311 AD, about six years after the Great Persecution had begun to wane.   The Edict of Milan was still two years away, but North Africa was governed by Maxentius (6) who had already liberated the Christians.   Caecilian, who had served as archdeacon under Mensurius, was chosen as his successor, and among those participating in his consecration was Felix, Bishop of Aptunga.   Immediately this succession met with protest.   Caecilian had been an even more zealous advocate of Mensurius’ position vis-à-vis the voluntary martyrs than Mensurius had been himself and so was most objectionable to those who found that position odious.   These then claimed that his consecration was invalid because of the participation of Felix.   Felix had been absent from his See during the Persecution and so had avoided arrest.   The opponents of Caecilian accused Felix of being a traditor, and maintained that this invalidated the consecration.


The matter was appealed to Secundus, Bishop of Tigisis who was the closest Primate (7), and Secundus with the support of 70 other bishops ruled against Caecilian.    These then chose and consecrated Majorinus, who had been a lector in the Carthaginian Church, as bishop.   With two different groups claiming two different individuals to be the validly consecrated holder of the same bishopric, a schism was born.   Each side excommunicated the other, albeit on different grounds.   Those who supported Majorinus as the validly consecrated Bishop of Carthage maintained that those in fellowship with Caecilian were tainted by association with the sins of the traditor alleged against Caecilian himself and against Felix who consecrated him.   Those who supported Caecilian excommunicated those in fellowship with Majorinus on the grounds that their actions were schismatic.   This schism was very much a local affair as outside of North Africa the supporters of Caecilian were a clear supermajority.   The Patriarch of Rome was asked to look into the matter and with the backing of the Roman Synod he ruled in favour of Caecilian in 313 AD, as did the Council of Arles of 314 AD to which the decision was appealed.   These rulings were upheld in the ecumenical Councils later in that century.   Majorinus died two years after his consecration and was succeeded in the schismatic line by Donatus Magnus and so the schism came to take the name of Donatism.


The error of the Donatists, as we noted at the outset of this discussion, grew out of a matter of practice rather than a matter of doctrine.   When it comes to the actions of the traditores, orthodox Christians and Donatists were in agreement that it was reprehensible to collaborate with the persecutors of the faith by handing over Scriptures, sacred items, and the names of the brethren.   The Donatists, however, in their zeal for the holiness and purity of the Church, good things in themselves, insisted that the betrayal of the traditores forever disqualified them from being restored to their positions of leadership in the Church and thus invalidated their every ministry from administering baptisms to celebrating the Eucharist to, in the case of bishops, ordinations and consecrations of other bishops.   As easy as it is to see where the Donatists were coming from in this, had the Lord Jesus Christ thought the same way, St. Peter would never have been restored to his position as Apostle after he denied Christ three times on the evening of His betrayal and arrest, would never have been empowered to preach the sermon on the first Whitsunday through which  three thousand souls were converted, would never have opened the door to the evangelism of the Gentiles by bringing  the Gospel to Cornelius, and would not have written the two epistles under his name that are part of the Sacred Canon.   Yet even before the denial had taken place, indeed, just before the Lord predicted it, He said unto St. Peter “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Lk. 22:31-32).   After St. Peter had denied Him, and after He had risen from the dead, He called him to feed His sheep three times – one for each denial – and then, prophesying his eventual martyrdom, repeated to him the call to “Follow Me” (Jn. 21:15-19).   The difference between the Lord’s response to St. Peter and the Donatists’ response to the traditores shows us how their emphasis on holiness was at the expense of other elements of orthopraxis such as forgiveness and restoration and thus the equivalent of heresy in practice.   Ultimately, this error in practice translated itself into an error in doctrine, the error that the efficacy of the Church’s Ministries of Word and Sacrament as conduits of the grace of God is dependent upon the spotless purity of the ministers.   The controversy over this was still raging almost a century later when St. Augustine of Hippo, than whom there was no clearer and stronger expositor of the grace of God between St. Clement of Rome and the Reformation, answered the Donatists in his De Baptismo.


What message is there in this historical episode for our own day?


There are a number of parallels between the Diocletian Persecution and the bat flu madness of the last two years.   There are huge differences too, of course.   Whereas Diocletian and Galerius saw their persecution of Christianity for what it was – a deliberate attempt to extirpate the Christian faith and religion – the governments of the present day deny to themselves that they are doing anything of the sort.  Since they allow Christians and people of other religions to “worship” online, they have convinced themselves that their having forbidden Christians and those of other faiths to meet and assemble in person for much of the last two years is not the same thing as Diocletian’s outlawing of all Christian assembly.   Having convinced themselves of this, they have also persuaded themselves that in having Christian ministers arrested for holding services where their congregations could, well, congregate is not the same thing as when Galerius ordered bishops and priests to be arrested.   They obviously see no similarities between their attempts to prevent the spread of any information that disagrees with their narrow, official, narrative about the bat flu and, indeed, to stomp it out as “misinformation” and the Roman Empire’s efforts to burn all copies of the Christian Scriptures and other sacred literature.   Some would say that because with regards to each of these parallels the difference is that what the Roman Empire did was that much more severe the comparison is therefore inappropriate.   Others will, more astutely, note that this difference is what allows today’s governments to convince themselves that they are not engaged in persecution which self-deception makes what they are doing that much more dangerous than the open persecution of the Roman Empire or in more recent times of the Communist countries.


A similar comparison could be made between the response of the Churches to the almost universal medical technocratic tyranny of the bat flu scare and the actions of the traditores.   Again, there are huge differences, but not such as necessarily mean that the Churches of the present day come out favourably in the comparison.   Complying with an order from the state that the Church not assemble is, in one sense, not as extreme a betrayal of the faith as handing over the Scriptures to be burned and handing over the names of other Christians to those seeking to arrest them, but it is a betrayal in that the teachings of the Scriptures, as interpreted by the faithful in all places and all times from the Apostles to the present  (8) is that a state ban on Church assembly is a clear and obvious exception to the Scriptural injunction of civil obedience. (9)    If it is less extreme in this sense, it is greater in that it is far more widespread than that of the traditores was.    The compliance of the Churches with these tyrannical public health orders was almost universal.   The leaders of the Churches have undoubtedly persuaded themselves that they are not guilty of the same thing as the traditores and even that their compliance with this medical totalitarianism is virtuous, an act of sacrifice for the safety and wellbeing of others, especially the most vulnerable among us.    However, just as governments are capable of more and greater oppression and persecution when they have deceived themselves into thinking that they are acting for the public good instead of oppressing and persecuting people, so this self-deception on the part of the Churches compounds rather than mitigates the problem.    Those who regard their sinful betrayal of the faith not as a sinful betrayal of the faith but as a virtuous act of self-sacrifice are incapable of the repentance and confession that the orthodox Churches of the fourth century required from the traditores before their restoration.                                                                                                                                           


This leaves anyone who is trying to follow Christ in accordance with what historically and traditionally have been regarded as orthodox faith and orthopraxis and who has not bought into the Great Deception of the bat flu madness caught on the horns of a terrible dilemma.   To anyone trying to follow Christ in this manner, Church is essential not optional.   For almost two years, however, the leadership of the Churches have acted as if the opposite is true.   They have closed their doors, tried to get us to live a lie by pretending that watching a tiny Church service broadcast online and saying the words along with them is a form of assembling together as a Church (it is not), and allowed attendance on occasions that the public health tyrants permitted provided that a stringent list of requirements all arising out of a worldly spirit of fear that would drive the sanctity out of the Church were adhered to.   The Christian leaders who have most conspicuously and admirably resisted the public health tyranny have for the most part come from sects that are either extremely schismatic, enthusiastic (in the theological sense of the word which is not a good thing), heretical – sometimes grossly so – or all of the above.  


Should the public health scare ever end, what ought we to do?


If we wait for the leaders of our Churches to acknowledge and repent of the sins of betraying the faith and leaving us without the ministry of the Church in any real sense for the duration of the public health scare before resuming fellowship with them we will be waiting a very long time and run the risk of becoming Donatists in spirit, if not in letter.


If, on the other hand, we just try to pick up where we had left off in March 2020, forgetting the entire horrible interlude, and pretending that there was no betrayal or apostasy to forgive (since offering forgiveness in the absence of acknowledgement of wrongdoing cheapens forgiveness), we will have traded the Scylla of Donatism for the Charbydis that is its opposite.


There is no obvious solution to this dilemma short of the public health scare being brought to an end with the Second Coming of Christ in Glory to judge both the quick and the dead.   Whatever we end up doing, we should devote much prayer and contemplation to the matter.


 (1)   The Nicene-Constantinopolitan, the Creed that was put together by and in the first two ecumenical Councils of the early Church, is the most basic and fundamental Christian Creed in that it is the only Creed universally accepted among all the Churches that can claim organic lineage from the Apostolic Church.   This is further attested to by the fact that the addition of a single word – filioque – to the Latin text of this Creed, was the most important doctrinal issue that separated the Eastern Greek-speaking Church from the Western Latin-speaking Church in the eleventh century.   The Apostles’ Creed is shorter and simpler than the Nicene-Constantinopolitan, but it does not seem to have ever been as universally accepted and used as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan.     The traditional account of its origin – that it was composed on the first Whitsunday by the Apostles themselves, with each of the Apostles, St. Matthias having been chosen as Judas Iscariot’s replacement already, contributing one of the twelve lines – is very old.   St. Ambrose of Milan and Rufinus of Aquileia both spoke of it as a well-established account less than a century after the Council of Nicaea.     If true, this would be an incontrovertible argument for the priority of the Apostles’ Creed over the Nicene-Constantinopolitan as the basic Creed of Christianity (not that the two, which are very similar, and could almost be taken for the longer and shorter forms of a singular Creed, contradict each other), but if true, it would be difficult to explain how it fell so quickly out of use in the Greek-speaking Churches of the East.     In its earliest form, the old Roman Symbol used in the baptismal rite of the Church of Rome – in the sense of the Church particular to that city, not in the sense of the “Roman Catholic Church”, i.e., all Churches that remained in communion with the Roman Patriarch after the Great Schism and the Reformation – it predates the Nicene-Constantinopolitan and goes back to at least the early part of the second century.   Nevertheless, although a strong case can be made that it was originally written in Greek – see Rev. John Baron The Greek Origins of the Apostles’ Creed Illustrated by Ancient Documents and Recent Research (1885) for the case that the Greek text of the Creed that Marcellus of Ancyra brought with him to Rome during his exile was the original form – the history of its usage is almost entirely Latin and Western.

(2)   “World” is the word we use in English where the Greek-speaking Church used κόσμος.   In Scriptural and ecclesiastical usage these terms have a positive sense in which they are basically synonyms of “Creation”, i.e., everything God made.   The Latinized transliteration of κόσμος as “cosmos”, a synonym for “universe”, is a secularized equivalent of this.   This positive sense of these words can be narrowed to focus on one aspect of Creation if the context requires it.   For example, the world in “For God so loved the world” in John 3:16 is Creation but with a focus on the people who live in it.    There is also a negative sense in which these words are used by the Scriptures and the Church and this is obviously the sense intended when we speak of holiness as separation from the world.   In this sense, world or κόσμος means the fallen state of Creation, human sin or rebellion against God not merely as it touches each of us as individuals, in which case the word for it would be flesh as a rendition of the Greek σὰρξ in its specialized New Testament usage, but as it permeates and corrupts human organized society.

(3)   Manichaeism had a strong presence in these places both before and after the Persecution. St. Augustine, prior to his conversion to the orthodox Christian faith of his mother, had been associated with the Manichaeans for about a decade.  He had come under their influence as a student at the University of Carthage.   This was about seventy years after Diocletian had ordered Manichaeism rubbed out.

(4)   This was the period of the Roman Tetrachy.   Although Diocletian’s treatment of the Manichaeans and Christians was undoubtedly tyrannical, in one sense he behaved atypically for a despot and divided his power with others.   Two years after becoming emperor in 284 AD, he named one of his cavalry comrades Maximian his co-emperor, assigning the Western Empire to Maximian and governing the Eastern Empire himself.   Seven years later, he named two other co-emperors, Galerius and Constantius to serve as Junior Emperors under him and Maximian.    The Senior Emperors took the title Augustus, the Junior Emperors took the title Caesar. The Tetrarchy was short lived.  Constantius’ son Constantine succeeded his father in 306 and was awarded both imperial titles.    In less than two decades he had consolidated his reign over the whole Roman Empire, although the division between East and West was lasting and would re-assert itself after his reign.   A famous episode in the process of consolidating his rule was the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD in which he defeated Maximian’s successor Maxentius, leaving him the sole Western claimant to the Imperial title.  This was the battle in which in response to a vision he fought under a standard bearing the , the Christian monogram formed by combining X (Chi) with P (Rho) the first two letters of the word Christ.

(5)   While the word “traitor” is derived from traditor(es), the word “tradition” comes from the same source as traditor.   The concept common to both is of something having been handed or given over.   The source is the Latin verb trado “I hand over, surrender”, tradere “to hand over, surrender”, a contraction of the compound formed by combining the preposition trans meaning “across” and the verb do, dare meaning “give”.   This verb takes the form traditus “having been handed over” in its fourth part, the passive perfect participle.   “Tradition”, which preserves the passive voice of this form of the verb, means “that which has been handed over” in the sense of that which has been handed down to us from those who have gone before us and lacks the perjorative connotations of traditor(es) which is formed from the same part of the verb, by modifying it with the suffix that indicates the agent of the action of the otherwise passive form and which is pejorative because the handing over indicated in this case was an act of cowardly betrayal.

(6)   Vide supra, note 4.

(7)   The Bishop of Carthage was also the Primate of North Africa but for obvious reasons could not adjudicate this case.   Secundus was Primate of Numidia.

(8)   This is the test of Catholicity – ecumenicity, antiquity, and consent - proposed by St. Vincent of Lerins in his famous canon – “quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” (“whatever is believed everywhere, always, and by all”) in Commonitorium 2:6.

(9)   The examples of Daniel when forbidden by Darius to pray to the true God in the sixth chapter of Daniel, and of the Apostles when forbidden by the Sanhredrin to preach and teach in the name of Jesus in the fourth and fifth chapters of Acts, set the Scriptural precedent followed by the Churches that continued to meet during the persecutions including the Diocletian.