The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, September 29, 2023

Against the Extreme Ecclesiastical Provincialism of Hyper-Protestantism

 In my last essay I made use of the following syllogism to demonstrate that one cannot logically object to the expression Θεοτόκος (Theotokos) or “Mother of God” for the Virgin Mary without either denying the deity of Jesus Christ or denying that Mary is the Mother of Jesus (by saying, for example, that she is the mother of only one of His natures rather than of Jesus as a Person, which is the heresy of Nestorianism):


Premise A: Jesus is God.

Premise B: Mary is the Mother of Jesus.


Conclusion (C): Mary is the Mother of God.


One Hyper-Protestant took exception to this.   Posting as “Anonymous” he lumped me in with “filthy papists” (I recognize neither the Patriarch of Rome’s claim to universal jurisdiction over the entire Church, not his claim from Vatican I on to infallibility) and described my syllogism as “anti-trinitarian”.   This proved to be deliciously ironic in that he then offered up the following two alternative syllogisms:


The Father is God and not born of Mary so Mary is not the "Mother of God." The Holy Spirit is God and not born of Mary so it is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost to call her "Mother of God." 


Now, these are not proper syllogisms in form, of course.   Both attempt to draw their conclusion from a single compound premise and the second introduces a concept into the conclusion “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” that is not present in the premise.   This is what “Anonymous”’ first syllogism would look like cleaned up:


Premise A: The Father is God.

Premise B. Mary is not the mother of the Father.


Conclusion (C):  Mary is not the Mother of God.


Substitute “The Holy Spirit” for “The Father” as the Middle term in both Premises and you have the cleaned up version of his second syllogism.

Can you see why these syllogisms are invalid?


For either of these syllogisms to be valid, that is, for the conclusion to necessarily follow from the premises, the Major Term, “God” would have to be a closed set, including only the Middle Term of the syllogism (“The Father” in the case of the first syllogism, “The Holy Spirit” in the case of the second syllogism).  Yet this is precisely what a Trinitarian cannot claim.   The Father is God, yes, but not to the exclusion of either The Son or The Holy Ghost.   The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of the other Persons.   God is One in Being, but Three in Person.   “Anonymous”’ syllogisms require God to be One in Person as well as Being.  This is Unitarianism not Trinitarianism.   Or, since he made the same argument with both the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is the heresy of Sabellianism.


By contrast, in my original syllogism both the Minor Term (Mary) and the Middle Term (Jesus) are as individual Persons closed sets, but there is no need for the Major Term (God) to be similarly closed, for the conclusion to necessarily follow from the Premises.    My syllogism allows for the Trinity, it is “Anonymous”’ syllogisms which do not, and which are therefore the anti-Trinitarian syllogisms.


Of course, considering that “Anonymous”’ post consists almost entirely of bitter, acidic, vitriol it is clear that he was writing from a standpoint of high emotion rather than reason.    Later in the comments, however, Jason Anderson, who like “Anonymous” defends the Nestorian position, responded to my remarks in the essay about the implications of his claim that Jesus “disowned” Mary.   Mr. Anderson had made this claim originally in the comments on an earlier essay “Be a Protestant BUT NOT A NUT!  The claim, obviously, is an attempt to get as far from Rome as possible on the subject of Mary.  Like the base Nestorian position, however, it has Christological implications, in this case that Jesus broke the fifth commandment.   Mr. Anderson’s response to my pointing this out is more level-headed than “Anonymous”’ comments.   Is it more rational however?


He begins by saying:


What does "they went out to lay hold on him" mean if not "kidnapping"? If they were cops it might mean "arrest" but being private citizens it means "kidnapping." 


Note that his question is written from the position that his interpretation of these words of St. Mark’s is the default correct one unless some other interpretation is proven, a rather bold position to take with regards to an interpretation that is novel with him.   Especially since it involves a concept that would have been nonsensical to anyone in the first century – the idea of someone being “kidnapped” by his own people.   This is not a nonsensical concept to us, because in our day where liberal, individualistic, rights is a concept that is almost universally taken as axiomatic, and family break-ups are common, one parent kidnapping a child from the other parent to whom the court has awarded custody is, sadly, not unknown.   In the first century nobody believed in liberal, individualistic, rights.   What was universal then was the idea that the family had authority – almost absolute authority – over its members.   The idea that a family detaining one of its own constituted a “kidnapping” was completely foreign to that world.   So, for that matter, was the form of law enforcement Mr. Anderson suggests as the alternate possibility.   Since the explanation given in the text is that they thought He was “beside himself”, i.e. had become mentally disturbed, the correct interpretation is that they, based on an erroneous presumption, were doing what was expected of the family of someone who had become mentally unstable, as evinced elsewhere in the Gospel narratives.   In my essay, I described this as a “misguided intervention”, but I at least acknowledged the anachronism of using “the parlance of our day” in such a way.    Certainly the description is accurate if anachronistic.   The family was doing what society expected of them under such circumstances and doing so out of love for Him, to keep Him safe.   That they were mistaken in thinking Him to be “beside himself” does not change this into a “kidnapping” and it is obscene to suggest that it could justify breaking the fifth commandment.


Mr. Anderson goes on to say:


Now whatever other construction you try to put on it is the same as how pastors frequently claim calling your mother "woman" was magically respectful in that one society and time despite never being so anywhere or time else.


Here Mr. Anderson has compounded the error of his first two sentences with a basic inductive error that anyone who has ever studied philosophy or logic could identify after their first class.   In his time and in his culture, calling your mother “woman” is disrespectful, so he extrapolates this onto all other cultures in all other societies and times – for he has not investigated every single culture, in every single society, in all times, to support his claim, I guarantee you that – to dismiss those who say that “woman” was not a disrespectful form of address in the first century.   One does not have to go outside of the text of the Gospel of John to show that the pastors he so dismisses are right and that there is no magic involved.


γύναι, the vocative form of the Greek word for “woman”, is used as a common form of address throughout the Gospel.   In addition to Mary in the second and nineteenth chapters, Jesus addresses the Samaritan Woman this way in the fourth chapter when telling her that the time is coming that those who worship the Father will do so neither in the Samaritan mountain nor Jerusalem, address the woman taken in adultery when asking her where the accusers He had just rescued her from were in the Pericope de Altera at the beginning of the eighth chapter, and Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection in the twentieth chapter.   There is no hint of disrespect in any of these passages.   In the last mentioned, the vocative is joined to the question “why weepest thou?” which, if the form of address was disrespectful, would be absolutely bizarre, as the question and the moment are ones of tender kindness.   Note that only a couple of verses earlier, the angels at the empty tomb address her in the same way.    Clearly this address was both a) common and c) not perceived as disrespectful, within the context of the Gospel according to St. John. 


The Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke provides additional confirmation of this.  Jesus addresses the woman He heals from an eighteen year infirmity in the synagogue on the Sabbath this way in the thirteenth chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, and the Canaanite woman who asked Him to cast the demon out of her daughter in the fifteenth chapter of St. Matthew.   Note with regards to the latter, that this address is not part of the earlier portion of the conversation, but when Jesus is praising her faith and granting her request in the twenty-eight verse.   For the record, γυνή is the basic Greek word for “woman” and “wife”, and in the vocative, was used as a term of affection rather than disrespect, comparable to “Ma’am” and in some cases even “My Lady” in English.  William Barclay in his commentary on St. John’s Gospel writes:


The word Woman (gynai) is also misleading. It sounds to us very rough and abrupt. But it is the same word as Jesus used on the Cross to address Mary as he left her to the care of John (John 19:26). In Homer it is the title by which Odysseus addresses Penelope, his well-loved wife. It is the title by which Augustus, the Roman Emperor, addressed Cleopatara, the famous Egyptian queen. So far from being a rough and discourteous way of address, it was a title of respect. We have no way of speaking in English which exactly renders it; but it is better to translate it Lady which gives at least the courtesy in it.


To the examples of classical literature he cites might be added Euripides’ Medea.   It is how Creon addresses the title character, while trying to soften the blow of her exile, following Jason’s betrayal.   This is the first example Liddell & Scott give of the affectionate use of the term.


Does Mr. Anderson have anything more to back up his claim that Jesus “disowned” His Mother other than the vile accusation that she was “abusive”?


No, not really.   The rest of his response is an entertainingly arrogant form of the Argumentum ex Silentio.    Here is the first part of it:

If he did not disown her, why is she never mentioned by Paul? Not by name, only as "made of a woman"---again that word woman not mother. To Paul she is just a "woman" as to Jesus she is just a "woman." Paul doesn't speak of any "Mother of God." It proves she was disowned. 


So, according to Mr. Anderson, if St. Paul never mentioned Mary, the first explanation to come to mind is that Jesus disowned her.    I would have thought that a more rational explanation was that St. Paul in his epistles was addressing specific situations in the Churches to which he was writing and explaining specific doctrines of the faith rather than trying to be comprehensive.   Then, however, I am not trying to take a position as far removed from Rome’s as possible and then impose that position on the text of the Bible whether it supports it or not.    Mr. Anderson is mistaken in saying “Paul doesn’t speak of any ‘Mother of God.’”   St. Paul says that Jesus was “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), which points to His having a Mother.   St. Paul says that Jesus is God (Titus 2:13 among many other verses).   Therefore St. Paul speaks of a Mother of God.   It is comical that he writes “It proves she was disowned”.   His Argumentum ex Silentio is not even evidence, much less proof.   Nor does it become any stronger when he compounds it by adding SS Peter, John, James and Jude.


Indeed, he would have been wiser to have left St. John out of it.   He writes “Nor Peter or John (and she is called John's mother, but even he doesn't assert that she is ‘Mother of God’) nor Jude nor James.”   A) Everyone who asserts that Jesus is God, asserts that Mary is the Mother of God by doing so, for Mary is the Mother of Jesus.   St. John asserts that Jesus is God in the very first verse of his Gospel.  B) The passage in which Jesus tells Mary to behold her son in St. John, and St. John to behold his mother in Mary, far from being the disowning that only a most reprobate mind would see in it, is the demonstration of filial affection and care that is universally, even by Hyper-Protestants other than Mr. Anderson, seen to be, C) It is by no means established fact that St. John was silent about Mary outside of his Gospel.   St. John is acknowledged, by conservatives at any rate, to be the author of the Book of Revelation.   In the twelfth chapter of this book a woman is mentioned who gives birth to a male child:


And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. (v. 5)


There is no significant disagreement as to who this child was/is.   This is Jesus.   Who the woman is, however, is hotly contested.   There have been multiple candidates put forward but the ones that deserve serious consideration can be reduced to four – Mary, Eve, national Israel and spiritual Israel (the Church).   Mary is an obvious candidate because she literally gave birth to Jesus.   I will defer Eve until later.   Israel is a candidate because of the description of the woman in the first verse (the sun, moon, twelve stars alluding to Joseph’s dreams in Genesis) and because of the reference back to Isaiah’s “unto us a child is born” sign, which reasoning can be used for Israel either in the sense of the nation (not the state that goes by that name today but the ethnicity), or in the sense of the Congregation of the Lord, which is in the New Testament the Church.   Hyper-Protestants like Mr. Anderson will detest the thought that Mary is in view here, especially since this chapter if referring to her completely undermines the foundation of their complaints against most of the honours Rome has bestowed upon her including the title “Queen of Heaven” (the first verse of the chapter depicts the woman as wearing a crown in Heaven) but it is impossible to rule her out.   The biggest argument against viewing the woman as the Church, spiritual Israel, is that Jesus built the Church but here the woman gives birth to Jesus.   This is not a fatal argument in that while the Church in the New Testament began at Pentecost the Old Testament Church – the spiritual Congregation of the Lord within national Israel – was folded up into her at Pentecost, and so there is a continuity there.   Understanding her to be national Israel would seem to commit one to a dispensationalist view of Revelation, or at least something very close to it.   The best interpretation is that the woman is a compound symbol.   She is indeed Mary, the literal Mother of Jesus, but not merely in her own person but as the symbolic representative of Israel, certainly in the spiritual sense – note how believers are described as “the remnant of her seed” in the seventeenth verse – and perhaps in the national sense as well, and as the New Eve who gave birth to the New Adam.   This last image, Mary as the New Eve, is strongly suggested in the chapter in which Satan appears as the dragon who is “that old serpent”, i.e., the one that deceived the original Eve, and makes war against the woman and her “seed”.


Now, the concept of Mary as the New Eve was spelled out in so many words very early in Church history.   It first appears in Justin Martyr’s writings, specifically his Dialogue With Trypho which dates to the middle of the second century (this is also our oldest source identifying St. John the Apostle as the John who wrote Revelation).   It is then expounded upon at length in Adversus Haereses, written two to three decades later by St. Irenaeus, a second generation disciple of St. John (his teacher was St. Polycarp, who was taught directly by the Apostle).   It is significant that this connects the concept to those most directly influenced by St. John, with whom the Blessed Virgin lived out the rest of her life as he himself records, and the author of Revelation in which this image so strikingly appears.  It is next found in De Carne Christi, written in the early third century by Tertullian.


It is also however suggested by the very wording that Mr. Anderson finds so disparaging.   Here is the very first Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament:


And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:15)


Note that this verse speaks merely of “the woman”.   There is a double reference here, obviously, to Eve, who is named later in the chapter (v. 20), and to Mary who actually gives birth to the seed that bruises the serpent’s head.   When St. Paul, whose epistles spell out the concept of Jesus Christ as the New Adam (Rom. 5, 1 Cor. 15), describes Jesus as “made of woman” in Galatians 4:4, this is an allusion to this prophecy, and not the dismissal of her importance that Mr. Anderson assumes it to be.


Perhaps you are wondering why I have wasted so much time and space answering this sort of thing.   It is to once again show that Hyper-Protestantism is a dangerous path to tread.


Hyper-Protestantism, remember, is the form of Protestantism that is not content to disagree with the Roman Catholic Church merely on the matters that led to the Reformation (Rome’s rejection of the supremacy of Scriptural authority over the authority of Church and tradition and her rejection of the assurance of salvation in the Gospel to all who believe leading her to compromise the freeness of salvation as the gift of God to man in Jesus Christ) or even on these and the claims of the Roman Patriarchy that were disputed in the Great Schism (mainly Rome’s claim to universal jurisdiction, despite this being denied by the canons of the Ecumenical Councils) all of which have to do with errors and claims made by Rome specifically and relatively late in Church history.   Hyper-Protestantism opposes and rejects, at least in part, what is truly Catholic, as well as what is distinctly Roman.   That which is Catholic is that which belongs to the entire Church, everywhere she has been found, from Apostolic times to the present day as opposed to what is distinctive of the Church in one specific place, or one specific time.


Doctrinally, the most important part of what is Catholic is the Creed, the original version of which most likely was drafted by the Apostles themselves, which underwent regional variation as the Gospel spread, with one such regional version, the Roman Baptismal Symbol, evolving into what is now called the Apostles’ Creed, and another regional version being modified by the first two Ecumenical Councils, into what is now called the Nicene Creed, more properly the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and which is the most widely used and accepted confessional statement in Christianity.   The Creed is the essential Christian faith. All ancient Churches confess the Creed.  Next to the Creed in importance is the Definition of Chalcedon, which clarifies the doctrine of the One Person and Two Natures of Jesus Christ – that He is fully God, co-equal with the Father and Holy Spirit, and fully Man, with the same nature as us, except no sin, that these two Natures remain distinct, but are permanently united in His One Person so that what is true of Him in either of His Natures is true of Him in His Person.     While some ancient Churches dissent from the Definition of Chalcedon, they do not seem to teach what is condemned by Chalcedon.   The heresies condemned at Chalcedon are Nestorianism, which separates Jesus’ natures from His Person, and Monophysitism, which teaches that Jesus’ human nature was swallowed up into His divine nature so that Jesus is fully God but not fully Man.   The Non-Chalcedonian Churches, such as the Coptic and Armenian, do not accept the “two natures’ language of Chalcedon, but do teach that Jesus was fully God and fully Man and call their position “Miaphysitism” rather than Monophysitism.    All ancient Churches therefore, even the ones that don’t accept the Definition of Chalcedon, reject the heresies condemned at Chalcedon.   There are other doctrines and practices that are Catholic in that they have been taught and practiced in all the ancient Churches since the earliest times but they are of varying degrees of lesser importance to the truths in the Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon.


The Roman Catholic Church, that is to say, the portion of the Church that recognizes the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Rome, claims to be the Catholic Church confessed in the Creed.   All Protestants reject that claim, as, of course, do the Eastern Orthodox, and the other ancient Churches.   A Protestant, therefore, should never refer to the Roman Catholic Church as the Catholic Church without the Roman, or refer to members of her Communion as “Catholics”, for this concedes the claim which we contest.   The Roman Catholic Church is a particular Church – like the Church of Corinth or the Church of Galatia mentioned in the New Testament.   Indeed, you could say that she is a very large version of the Church of Rome that is mentioned in the New Testament.  She is not the whole Church, however.   A Protestant must insist on this.  A Hyper-Protestant will either call her the Catholic Church and her members Catholics, thus accepting Rome’s claim while rejecting that which is Catholic, or alternately and inconsistently deny her claim to be Catholic at all even in the sense of being a particular Church within the Catholic Church by accusing her of teaching things that would place her at odds with the Nicene Creed.   Rome does not claim to teach these things.  Rome confesses the Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon.   Hyper-Protestants maintain, on the basis of some Roman practices they object to – in some cases the objections are justified, in some cases not – that these other things are what Rome really teaches and what the members of her Communion really believe, even though they say they don’t teach and believe those things.   This is, of course, a form of the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi, and it is also a violation of any number of Scriptural commandments, including the eighth of the Ten.   None of the doctrines that ordinary Protestants contended with Rome over in the Reformation touched on the truths in the Creed or the Chalcedonian Definition.   


The Catholic doctrines, those held by all ancient Churches, everywhere, since ancient times, are the first tier of Christian truth.  Within this first tier, the core truths are those confessed in the Creed and the Chalcedonian Definition.    Ordinary Protestants, or better, orthodox Protestants, do not contest Catholic doctrines. The doctrines emphasized in the Reformation – the primary of Scriptural authority over ecclesiastical authority and tradition, the freeness of salvation as a gift, and the assurance of salvation in the Gospel – belong to a second tier of Christian truth.   Now, some of these may be more important than some doctrines of the first tier outside of the core faith in one sense.  The freeness of salvation, for example, is more important than anything that might be believed universally throughout the Churches about angels.   The ranking of the two tiers is based on that which is common to all (Catholic) being generally more important than that which is particular to the part (Protestant, Roman, etc.)   The essence of the faith, remember, belongs to that core part of the Catholic tier.   Hyper-Protestants tend to major on differences with Rome that are of lesser importance than the core doctrines of the Reformation.   This would make them third tier at best.   Yet Hyper-Protestants use Rome’s differences from themselves on these points to deny Rome, which confesses the first tier of Christian truth, a place within Christianity at all.   In doing so, they often compromise their own adherence to the first tier of Christian truth.   The error of Hyper-Protestantism could be described, therefore, as an extreme form of ecclesiastical provincialism.


The matter discussed in my last essay and in the first section of this one illustrates this point. There is a huge difference between Protestantism and Hyper-Protestantism when it comes to their disagreement with Rome over the Virgin Mary.   In the Reformation, the dispute between Rome and the Magisterial Reformers, both continental and English, was almost entirely a dispute over practice rather than doctrine.   The Reformers all thought that the cult of the Blessed Virgin, like that of the saints in general, had been taken to idolatrous excess in the late Medieval Roman Church.    They reformed this in the Churches they led, usually by eliminating the cult altogether, but they did not take a hard stand against the doctrines Rome taught regarding Mary. 


These are called the Marian Dogmas.   There are four of them, all of which were taught by Rome at the time of the Reformation, two of which did not become dogma – doctrine officially binding on members of a Communion, in this case the Roman – until long after the Reformation.   The Marian Dogmas are that Mary is the Mother of God (Theotokos), her Perpetual Virginity, her Immaculate Conception, and her Bodily Assumption.    The first two of these are truly Catholic, having been held by the entire Church since the earliest centuries.   The first, moreover, is integral to sound Christology, and cannot be denied without either denying the deity of Jesus Christ or separating His deity from His Person, both soul-damning heresies, and so the first Marian Dogma is not only Catholic, but belongs to “the faith once delivered unto the saints”, that core element of the first tier of Christian truth.   This cannot be said of the other three, even the other truly Catholic doctrine.  The Immaculate Conception – this means the idea that Mary herself was protected from the taint of Original Sin in her conception, do not confuse it with either the Miraculous Conception or Virgin Birth of Jesus - was declared dogma by the Roman Church in 1854, and the Bodily Assumption in 1950, less than a century ago.  Neither can be said to be truly Catholic.   The Eastern Church, although she teaches that Mary was kept by grace from personal sin, rejects the Immaculate Conception (that she was kept from Original Sin) and while the Eastern Church does teach a form of Assumption (that Mary was taken bodily into heaven) in her theology, which emphasizes the Dormition (literally “falling asleep” i.e., in death) of the Theotokos, the Assumption is understood as a resurrection rather than a rapture, to borrow a concept from dispensationalist eschatology, whereas the Roman dogma is worded in such a way as to allow for the latter possibility and perhaps suggest it.  The Hyper-Protestants reject the last three of these, usually claiming not only that they cannot be proved from Scripture but that they are disproved by Scripture, and, as we have seen, many Hyper-Protestants reject the first one, that one cannot reject without embracing Christological heresy of one sort or another, as well.   This is a remarkable contrast with the Protestant Reformers who believed, almost unanimously, in the first two, the truly Catholic ones, and in some cases held to all four.


The Lutheran Reformers, following Dr. Luther’s lead, were the strongest proponents of the Marian doctrines.   Mary as the Mother of God and her Perpetual Virginity are both affirmed in the Lutheran Confessions.   An argument for Mary’s being the Mother of God is even placed in the Formula of Concord (Epitome VIII.xii, Solid Declaration VIII.xxiv), while her Perpetual Virginity is affirmed by the use of “Ever Virgin” in the Smacald Articles I.iv.  Dr. Luther also taught a form of the Immaculate Conception in which Mary’s physical conception was normal but her ensoulment was miraculously protected so that the effects of Original Sin touched only her body and not her soul.  The English Reformers were usually as conservative as the Lutherans if not more so.   In this case, they – Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Coverdale, Jewel, et al. -  all personally affirmed their strong belief in the first two Marian doctrines, the genuinely Catholic ones, but did not make them binding on the Church of England, except in that the orthodoxy of the Creed and Chalcedon is binding, which brings the first Marian doctrine along with it.   Interestingly, William Perkins, the Elizabethan era clergyman who is generally regarded as a moderate member of the Puritan party – the original Hyper-Protestants – was a strong defender of the Catholic Marian doctrines.    Even more interesting was the situation with the non-Lutheran Continental Reformers.   On many issues, John Calvin was closer to Dr. Luther and hence “more Catholic” than the other leaders of the Reformed tradition.   When it comes to Mary, however, Calvin was the odd man out in the other direction.   Zwingli, Bullinger, even Calvin’s own protégé Beza, all affirmed in the strongest possible terms the Catholic Marian doctrines.   The Perpetual Virginity made it into the Reformed Confessions, albeit in Bullinger’s Second Helvetic Confession (XI.iii) rather than any of the Three Points of Unity, and was later defended by the Calvinist scholastic Francis Turretin.   Calvin himself, however, was equivocal.   On the Mother of God, he defended the theological soundness of the title but disapproved of its common use.  Regarding the Perpetual Virginity, he maintained that it cannot be proven either way, although his specific refutation of Helvidius’ claims that it can be disproven by the Gospel of Matthew and his commentary on St. John’s Gospel to the effect that those identified as the brethren of Jesus were His cousins, strongly suggests he personally held to it.


Clearly, in their belief that antidicomarianism is the only true Protestant position and that anyone who accepts any of the Marian dogmas, even the one you cannot reject and consistently hold to the Hypostatic Union, is a closet “papist”, the Hyper-Protestants are out to lunch way off in left field on some other planet.   More importantly to the point at hand, however, is the fact that with the exception of Mary’s being the Mother of God, none of these doctrines belongs to the essence of the faith.   That essence, again, is the Creed, the basic confession of the truths all Christians believe, the formal expression or Symbol of “the faith”.  Mary’s being the Mother of God belongs to the essence of the faith, because it is primarily a Christological doctrine, and only secondarily about Mary.   It is in the Creed because Jesus having been “born of the Virgin Mary” is part of the Creed as is His being “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God…being of One Substance with the Father”, making Mary’s being the Mother of God, that is, of Jesus Christ Who is God, part of the Creed.    None of the other Marian doctrines can be found in the Creed, even in its expansion into the Athanasian Symbol that guards against every possible way of misconstruing the Trinity and brings the clarifying affirmations of Chalcedon into it.    Only one other of these doctrines, the Perpetual Virginity, belongs to the first tier of Christian truth – that which is Catholic in that it is held by all ancient Churches, everywhere, from the most ancient times.  The other two are neither first tier, nor are they, in either their affirmation or rejection, second tier, that is to say, belonging to the key truths of the Reformation.   These are third tier doctrines at best, which Hyper-Protestants, who in their rejection of these doctrines often go so far as to place themselves in serious doctrinal heresy by also rejecting the one that belongs to the Creedal essence of the first tier, elevate to a level of undue importance by writing people who sincerely confess the Creed out of the Church and out of Christianity, dismissing them as pagans or worse, for affirming these lesser doctrines that the Hyper-Protestants deny.


You have probably noticed that I have not directly addressed in this essay the question of what the Scriptures have to say, one way or another, about the Perpetual Virginity.   I shall address that, Lord willing, in a future essay, although not necessarily my next one.    All I will say about it here is that doctrines that are truly Catholic – held by the ancient Churches since ancient times – are not of the essence of the faith unless they are also tenets of the Creed, but should be presumed true unless proven otherwise from Scripture.   This is the orthodox Protestant position.   Hyper Protestantism reverses the onus.   I have also not addressed in this essay the position of those who would write the Roman Church and others which confess the Creed out of Christianity for disagreeing with the Protestant position on what I have called the second tier of Christian truth, the core doctrines of the Reformation.   This too, Lord willing, I shall address in a future essay.   Suffice it to say for now, that the core soteriological disagreement between the Reformers and Rome, boils down to the question of whether St. James interprets St. Paul (in Romans) or the other way around, that the evidence suggests, conclusively in my opinion, that it is St. Paul who interprets St. James, but that either way, the Protestant Reformers were not guilty of the antinomianism Rome accused them of, nor was Rome entirely guilty of the Galatianism the Reformers accused her of, that Rome went too far in anathematizing the Protestant position in the Council of Trent, and the Reformers went too far in applying the term Antichrist to a Church that, in error though it be, confesses Jesus as Christ and Lord.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Heretical Pitfalls of Hyper-Protestantism


One of the interesting things about Hyper-Protestantism, which is distinguished from the Protestantism of the Magisterial Reformation by its opposition to and rejection of what is Catholic, that is to say, belonging to the faith, religion, tradition, and practice held since the earliest centuries by all the ancient Churches descended organically from the Church of Jerusalem, rather than merely the errors distinctive to the Roman Church that sparked the Reformation, is its obsession with Marian doctrine.   Hyper-Protestants often act as if they thought Rome's teaching with regards to Mary is her most serious error rather than the soteriological issues at the heart of the Reformation.   At some point in the future I plan, if the Lord so wills, to show how the English and Lutheran Reformers and even John Calvin held certain Marian doctrines that would be considered "popish"  by Hyper-Protestants.   For today, however, I wish to explore how this obsession with contradicting everything Rome - and in many cases all the ancient Churches - says about Mary often leads them into serious Christological heresy.


One person who commented on my earlier essay "Be a Protestant - BUT NOT A NUT!" insisted that the ancient Church was wrong in condemning Nestorianism as a heresy.   Nestorianism was condemned in the Third Ecumenical Council, the Council of Ephesus, which took place in 431 AD.   Nestorius was the Archbishop of Constantinople at the time.   While this See had not yet been made a Patriarchate - that would come twenty years later when St. Anatolius held the office - it had been given the second place of honour after Rome by canon of the Second Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in 381 AD and was en route to becoming the fifth See of the ancient Pentarchy.   Nestorius, in other words, was in a very influential position, making error on his part all the more serious.


The controversy began with the use of the term Θεοτόκος (Theotokos) as an honourific title for the Virgin Mary.    Theotokos is Greek for "God-bearer".   In English it is generally rendered as "Mother of God".   The controversy over the title was older than Nestorius and Nestorius entered the controversy with the intention of being a peacemaker.   He proposed that the Virgin Mary be called the Christokos ("Christ-bearer").   Unfortunately for him, this was one of those cases where the compromise fell on ground belonging to one of the two sides (think of the Sunday School/Bible camp skit in which various people walk along a fence, with God and Satan each calling them to come over to their side, some choosing God, some Satan, until the last person, indecisively sits on the fence, only to be claimed by Satan, the owner of the fence).   By proposing the alternative title, Nestorius sided with those who rejected Theotokos, and as a consequence became forever associated with their ideas.   Those ideas included a serious Christological error.


Consider the following syllogism:


Premise A: Jesus is God.

Premise B: Mary is the Mother of Jesus.


Conclusion (C): Mary is the Mother of God.


This is a valid syllogism, meaning that if the premises are true the conclusion must be true as well, and so the conclusion cannot be rejected on the grounds of logical invalidity.    Those who reject the conclusion, therefore, must argue against the truth of either the Major or the Minor Premise.   They generally do not want to argue against the Major Premise by denying the deity of Jesus Christ.    Therefore they try to argue against the Minor Premise, that Mary is the Mother of Jesus.


Now, obviously they try to do so in a more subtle way than by an outright denial that would make them sound completely stupid.    What they try to do is to separate Jesus' human nature from His Person.   "Mary is the mother only of Jesus' human nature" they say.   


Do you see what they have done there?


In saying that Mary is the mother only of Jesus human nature they want you to think of His human nature in opposition to His divine nature.   That way they can come across as standing up for the truth against some unnamed heresy that says that Jesus got His divine nature from His human mother.   There is a reason, however, that this heresy is unnamed.  Nobody has ever taught it.   Nobody who calls Mary the Theotokos or the Mother of God thinks these terms mean that Mary was prior to God, that Jesus derives His deity from her, that she is the Mother of the Father or the Holy Ghost or any other such stupid things that opponents of these terms read into them.   Unnecessarily guarding against an error that nobody teaches is an easy way of falling into error yourself.   This is exactly what has happened here.


In actuality, when they say that Mary is the mother only of Jesus' human nature, this is not as opposed to her being the mother of His divine nature, but as opposed to her being the Mother of Jesus the Person.   Mother is a relational term.   It denotes how one person relates to another.   This is its primary use and meaning, and any implications it may have about the "nature" of either mother or child are entirely secondary.


By the reasoning the opponents of Theotokos use they should also be claiming that God the Father is not the Father of Jesus but only of His divine nature.   They do not usually say this, however, because the huge flaw in the argument is a bit more obvious when worded this way.


With other human beings a mother and father each contribute half of the genes their child inherits.   Each could, therefore, be said to contribute half of the child's nature, at least in its physical aspects - I don't wish to get into the ancient theological debate between Tertullian's traducianism and St. Jerome's creationism (of each individual's soul not of the world), now, maybe some other time.   We would never say, however, that someone's father is not that person's father but only the father of half of his genes, nor would we say such a thing, mutatis mutandis, about his mother.   A father is the father of his son as a whole person, not just the part of his son he contributed.   A mother is the mother of her daughter as a whole person, not just the part she contributed.


Now with Jesus we do not have a case of His Father contributing half of His genetic material and His Mother contributing the other half.   Jesus is One Person, with Two Natures, Fully God and Fully Man.   His divine nature comes entirely from His Father.   His human nature comes from His Mother.   This, however, does not mean that what we have just said about a father being the father of his child as a whole person, and a mother being the mother of her child as a whole person, rather than each being merely the father and mother of what they have contributed to their child does not apply with regards to Jesus.   Those who claim otherwise, seem to think it is sufficient to point to Jesus’ uniqueness as the Only Person born of a Virgin, or the Only Person with two natures, divine and human, and say see, Mary is mother only of His human nature not of Him as a Person, as if such a conclusion somehow inevitably followed from these observations. This is not, however, a conclusion that logically, inevitably, or naturally follows from Jesus’ being unique in these ways.


One objection that was raised that requires an answer is the following from someone posting under the name “Jason Anderson”.  He writes:


How can a mother of a pre-existent being be the mother of the personality that always existed? She can't.


Jesus was, of course, pre-existent.   Indeed, He is eternal.   He had no beginning.  There never was a moment before He existed.   The problem with drawing Mr. Anderson’s conclusion from this is that if his reasoning were sound it would also work against God being the Father of Jesus.   If Someone Who is pre-existent, Someone Who is eternal, Someone to Whom there is no “before”, cannot have a Mother, neither can He have a Father.    God the Father, however, is the Father of Jesus.   Furthermore, He is the Father of Jesus not merely by adoption, as the Adoptionist heresy would have, much less the Father of Jesus by creation, since Jesus is uncreated.   Jesus is the “Only-Begotten” Son of the Father, that is to say, the natural Son of the Father, the Son Who has the same nature as His Father which He gets from His Father.   Since both Father and Son are co-eternal, this does not mean the Father is temporally prior to the Son.   Theologically we refer to the way Jesus is begotten of the Father as “Eternal Generation”.   Unlike with a human father and a human son, the begetting or generation is not a moment in time to which there was a before when only the father and not the son existed, but is the eternal relationship between Father and Son.  


Now, before you raise the objection that Jesus’ relationship with Mary is not like this, that it had a beginning in time, that Jesus is eternal and Mary a created being, allow me to say that my argument is not that Jesus’ relationship to His Mother is identical to His relationship with His Father, obviously it is not, but rather my argument is that if a pre-existent, indeed, eternal Person can have a Father in this one way, eternal generation, then it is possible for the same pre-existent, eternal Person to have a Mother in another way.   That way, of course, is by Incarnation.   Jesus, the eternal Son of God, became Man by taking human nature and permanently uniting it to His Own eternal divine nature.   He did so, not by entering someone and taking possession of their body, but through the miraculous conception wrought by the Holy Ghost.    As St. Ambrose - and later John Francis Wade - put it, He “abhorred not the Virgin’s womb”.   He entered this world as Man, in other words, by being born into it.   By doing so, He Who was and is eternal, gained a Mother.   The Mother-Son relationship here is unique in that the Son existed before the Mother, not in that the Mother is Mother only of one of her Son’s natures rather than of her Son Himself.   The first uniqueness, the one that is actually true of Jesus’ relationship with the Virgin Mary, is a mystery.   The second is an absolute absurdity.


In addition to the thought-provoking question just addressed, Mr. Anderson provides us with a further illustration of the extremes to which the fanatical, anti-Catholicism of the Hyper-Protestant can take one.   He claims that Jesus “disowned” Mary three times.    Now, before looking at the passages he points to in order to back up this claim and seeing how he twists these Scriptures I am going to point out the gross Christological and Soteriological heresy he has committed by making this claim.   Jesus is both God and Man.   As Man, He is Perfect Man.   He is the Second Adam, Who succeeded where the first Adam failed.   He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).   His sinlessness is essential to His being our Saviour.   “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)  “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).   If Jesus disowned Mary, however, He broke the Fifth Commandment.   That would mean that He was not without sin, and could not be our Saviour.   Mr. Anderson, by taking his anti-Catholic fanaticism so far as to try to throw dirt on Mary because Rome gives her too much honour ended up throwing dirt on Jesus and committing soul-damning heresy in the process.


His attempt to back up this claim from Scripture demonstrates his “exegesis” – it is really eisegesis, the reading into a text of ideas that are not there – to be as bad as his theology.   The three occasions are the Wedding at Cana in the second chapter of St. John’s Gospel, the account of Jesus’ identification of those who do the will of God as His mother and brethren at the end of the third chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, and when He passed Mary into St. John’s care on the Cross in the nineteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.    In his interpretation of the second of these, the one from St. Mark’s Gospel, Mr. Anderson attempts to guard against the obvious conclusion of his claim by providing a “justification” of Jesus’ “disowning” His Mother.    Even if, however, we accepted his interpretation of these events, it would not work as such a justification.   One of the examples of these supposed disownings took place prior to the events of Mark 3.   The Wedding at Cana took place before Jesus began His public ministry after the arrest of John the Baptist.   The events at the end of Mark 3 take place after the ordination and first commissioning of the Twelve Apostles earlier in that chapter which took place after His public ministry was underway.


There is no disowning in any of these passages.   Jesus’ words at the end of Mark 3 are for the sake of the multitude He was addressing.   He doesn’t say anything, positive or negative, about His biological relatives.   He asks who His mother and brethren are, then answers by pointing to His disciples, and saying that these are His mother and brethren, and that whoever does the will of God is His brother, sister, and mother.    This is an ecclesiological statement.   The Church is the family of God is what He is saying here.   Mr. Anderson bases his interpretation of this on the fact that the occasion of Jesus’ saying this was His Mother and brethren having come and sent for Him.   Earlier in the chapter, in verse 21, we read that “when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself” and while this might be referring to the people of Nazareth in general it is not unreasonable to see the visit of Mary and His brethren as the unfolding of this.   If that is the case, however, most reasonable people would look at this and in the parlance of our day call it a misguided intervention.   No such action was needed, but it was done out of love.   Mr. Anderson, however, calls it a “kidnapping plot” and a “gubpowder (sic) plot”, “treachery” and an “attempt to be Judas before the time of Judas”, basically a violent criminal conspiracy against Jesus, that would justify His disowning them.   This, however, comes from his own twisted mind.  It is not there in the text.


Nor is there a disowning of Mary in the second chapter of St. John’s Gospel.   The words that Mr. Anderson takes as a disowning, the English of which can unfortunately come across as rude even though it is not so in the original, are in the original Greek: Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι.   A word for word literal rendition of this is “What to me and to you, woman?”    John Calvin took this to be a rebuke, but does not go so far as to read a disowning into it like Mr. Anderson does.  He said that it has the same force as the Latin Quid tibi mecum, which, while not entirely wrong, is not the whole story.   It is in fact a common idiom in Greek and Hebrew – it occurs several times in the Old Testament - as well as Latin.  Calvin likely had in mind the version of it that appears a couple of times in Plautus’ Menaechmi.   This is the play that inspired Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors.   It is about twins and mistaken identities.  The idiom, with the additional words est rei (Latin is not quite as economical with its words as Greek) has the meaning of “what business have I got with you?”   In the second scene of the third act it is spoken by the one Menaechmus to Peniculus who had addressed him thinking he was speaking to the Menaechmus he knew, the twin of the other.  This illustrates the sort of situation, or at least a farcical version of the sort of situation, in which this idiom is used as a rebuke.  As a rebuke, it is generally addressed to someone who you don’t know or don’t know very well who has been unduly intrusive.   This doesn’t fit the context of John 2 at all, making it really strange that John Calvin seemed to think this was the use in play here. The meaning that does fit here is “what does that have to do with me?” and in fact in this case it means “What does that have to do with us?”     Spoken in response to Mary’s having told Him that the wedding party had run out of wine, it means “why is that our concern?”  They were not, in other words, the hosts of the event, and were not responsible for the wine supply.  Note that neither this point, nor His hour not yet having come – a reference to His public ministry not having started yet – prevent Him from actually rectifying the situation, nor do they prevent Mary from understanding that He would do so as evinced by her instructions to the servants in the following verse.   Both her and His actions would be inexplicably odd if His words had the meaning Mr. Anderson reads into them.


As for the final reference from the nineteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, Mr. Anderson’s interpretation of the passage is literally the opposite of how it has been universally understood, that is to say, as the loving expression of a dying Son concerned that His Mother be provided for and asking a trusted and beloved friend to take care of her for Him.    The universal understanding is the correct one.    The language used is the language of adoption, not the language of disowning.     Here is Mr. Anderson: “and at the cross in John "man behold THY mother, woman behold THY son" (i.e. you can have her if you want her, I disown her for a 3rd time)”.    Here by contrast is John Calvin: “The Evangelist here mentions incidentally, that while Christ obeyed God the Father, he did not fail to perform the duty which he owed, as a son, towards his mother… Yet, if we attend to the time and place when these things happened, Christ's affection for his mother was worthy of admiration.”     Calvin’s is a far less tortured and much more natural reading of this text.   An even more natural reading is to emphasize the affection over the duty.  


It is one thing to say that we should not give to the Blessed Virgin Mary the honour and worship due only to her Son Jesus Christ Who, with the Father and Holy Ghost, is God.   All orthodox Christians should be able to agree on this.   Even the Romanists are not likely to disagree with it as worded, even if we Protestants suspect their practice to sometimes be in violation of it.   It is another thing to hate Rome so much as to take the furthest possible position from hers, even if it means disagreeing not just with Rome but with all the ancient Churches, rejecting the right judgement of the universal Church that Nestorius had committed heresy, and twisting and torturing the Scriptures beyond recognition, in support of a claim, that Jesus disowned His Mother, that contains within itself a blasphemous imputation of sin, specifically the violation of the Fifth Commandment, to the sinless Saviour of the world and is thus a worse heresy than that of Nestorius, who not wanting to ascribe too much honour to the Blessed Virgin ended up dividing the Person of her Son, Who in  His One Person is both fully God and fully Man.


It is okay to be a Protestant.   When Rome says or does something that goes against what the Scriptures teach, as faithful and orthodox Churches everywhere have understood them to teach since the days of the Church Fathers, then you can and should follow Scripture first, and the universal tradition second, rather than Rome.   The path of Hyper-Protestantism, however, is one which if followed, leads into pits of error worse than the errors of Rome.   It is best to avoid it at all costs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Religion and Politics

 Worship on Earth as it is Where?


The Church is the society of faith that Jesus Christ founded through His Apostles on the first Whitsunday (the Christian Pentecost, the successor to Succoth the Jewish Pentecost) when in accordance with His promise given on the eve of the events through which He established the New Covenant that would become the basis of that society, the Father sent down the Holy Ghost upon His disciples, uniting them into one body, with Christ as the head.    Into this one organic body, was joined the Old Testament Church, the Congregation of the Lord within national Israel, whose faith looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ and who were taken by Him, from Hades, the Kingdom of Death, in His Triumphant descent there after His Crucifixion, and brought by Him into Heaven when He ascended back there after His Resurrection.   The Church does many things when she meets as a community but first and foremost among them she worships her God.   In this, the Church on earth, or the Church Militant as she is called, unites with the Church in Heaven, also known as the Church Triumphant. 

Throughout her history those who have led, organized, and structured her corporate worship have been guided by the principle that our worship on Earth should resemble than in Heaven.   It is a Scriptural principle.   The Book of Hebrews discusses at length how the elaborate religious system given to national Israel in the Mosaic Covenant was patterned on Heavenly worship, the Earthly Tabernacle (the tent that was the antecedent of the Temple in the days when Israel was wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land), for example, was patterned on the Heavenly Tabernacle.   Indeed, Hebrews uses language strongly suggestive of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to describe the relationship between the Earthly Tabernacle and the Heavenly Tabernacle.   Since Hebrews also uses this kind of language to describe the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New the only reasonable conclusion is that if the worship of the Old Testament Church was to be patterned after worship in Heaven, how much more ought the worship of the New Testament Church to be patterned after the same.   Now the Bible gives us a few glimpses of worship in Heaven.   These are generally found in visions in the prophetic and apocalyptic literature.   The sixth chapter of Isaiah is the classic Old Testament example.   The vision of St. John in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation is the classic New Testament example.   In these chapters we find a lot of praying, a lot of singing, a lot of incense, an altar and a lot of kneeling.   The Scriptural depiction of worship, in other words, is quite “High Church”.   Indeed, since the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus, in His role of High Priest, entered the Heavenly Holy of Holies with His blood, which unlike that of the Old Testament bulls and goats effectively purges of sin and the New Testament elsewhere tells us that Jesus on the eve of His Crucifixion commissioned the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated in His Church until His Second Coming, which was practiced daily in the first Church in Jerusalem and which is Sacramentally united with Jesus’ offering of Himself, the way the pre-Reformation Churches – not just the Roman, but the Greek, Coptic, Armenian, Assyrian and other ancient Churches as well – made this the central focus of their corporate worship is also very Scriptural.   

In the Reformation, Rome’s abuses with regards to the Sacrament and her neglect of the preaching ministry, led many of the Reformers to de-emphasize the Sacrament and make the sermon the central focus of their corporate worship.   The more extreme wing of the Reformation confused the New Testament ideas of a preaching ministry in the Church, which is a didactic ministry, teaching the faithful, with that of evangelistic preaching, which is the Church’s external ministry of proclaiming the Gospel to the world, and worse, developed unhealthy ideas about the preaching ministry, such as that the Word is inert and lifeless unless it is explained in a sermon, which are susceptible to the same charges of idolatry that the Reformers themselves made against Rome’s late Medieval views of the Sacrament.   More to my point, however, the glimpses the Scriptures provide us of worship in Heaven do not mention a Heavenly pulpit, and, indeed, the closest thing to a sermon in Heaven I can think of in the Bible, is the reference to the everlasting Gospel in Revelation 14:6.  The same verse, however, specifies that while the angel carrying it is flying in the midst of Heaven, it is to be preached “unto them that dwell on the earth”.   Curiously, the Bible does make mention of a sermon that was preached to an otherworldly congregation.   St. Peter, in the nineteenth verse of the third chapter of his first Catholic Epistle, talks about how Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison”.   There is, of course, a lot of debate about what St. Peter meant by this.   Did he mean that Jesus preached the liberty He had just purchased them to the Old Testament saints when He descended into Hades?   Or that He preached to those who would be left in the Kingdom of Death when He took His saints with Him to Heaven?   If the latter, as the verses following might suggest, to what end?   We cannot answer these questions dogmatically, interesting though the long-standing discussion of them be.   My point, with regards to sermon-centric worship, is best expressed in another question.   Whoever thought that worship on Earth as it is in Hell was a good idea?


The State?


I prefer the term Tory to the term conservative as a description of my political views, even if that always requires an explanation that I do not mean “big-C party Conservative” by the term, but Tory as Dr. Johnson defined it in his Dictionary, a pre-Burke conservative if you will.   Today, the word conservative in its small-c sense, is mostly understood in its American sense, which is basically the older, nineteenth-century kind of liberal.   I don’t disassociate myself from this out of a preference for the newer, twentieth and twenty-first century types of liberalism over the older.   Quite the contrary, the older type of liberalism is far to be preferred over the newer.   I disassociate myself from it because the older type of conservatism, the British Toryism in which Canada’s original conservatism has its roots, is to be preferred over either type of liberalism.   

Some explain the difference between a Tory and an American type conservative by saying that the Tory has a high view of the state, the American conservative a low view of the state.   While this is not entirely wrong – Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary mentioned earlier defines a Tory as “One who adheres to the antient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the Church of England, opposed to a whig” – it can be very misleading, because “the state” has several different connotations.   

The basic error of liberalism – classical liberalism – pertains to human freedom.   Classical liberalism was the theory that man’s natural condition is to be an individual, autonomous with no social connections to others, that this natural condition is what it means to be free, that society and the state were organized by individuals on a voluntary contractual basis in order to mutually protect their individual freedom, and that when society and the state fail to do this individuals have the right and responsibility to replace them with ones that do.   Liberalism was wrong about each and every one of these points, failing to see that man’s natural is social not individual – an individual outside of society is not a human being in his natural condition – that society and the state are extensions of the family, the basic natural social unit, rather than extensions of the marketplace based on the model of a commercial enterprise, and that attempts to replace old states and societies with new ones, almost always result in tyranny rather than greater freedom.   

Nor did the liberals understand how their view of things depersonalizes people.   “The individual” is not Bob or Joe or Mary or Sam or Sally or Anne or Herschel or Marcus or George or Bill or Leroy or Susie, each a person on his own earthly pilgrimage, distinct but not disconnected from others, but a faceless, nameless, carbon copy of everyone else, identifiable only by the rights and freedoms that he shares equally with each other individual, in other words, a number.   When our primary term for speaking about government is the abstract notion of “the state” this tends to depersonalize government in the same way liberal autonomous individualism depersonalizes people.   In twentieth century liberalism, which envisioned a larger role for government than the earlier classical liberalism, and in that offshoot of liberalism that has gone by the name “the Left” or “progressivism”, “the state” is very impersonal, a faceless bureaucracy which views those it governs as numbers rather than people, a collective but a collective of autonomous individuals rather than an organic society/community.   I would say that the traditional Tory view of “the state” in this sense of the word is even lower than that of an American style, classical liberal, neoconservative.   

What the Tory does have a high view of is government in the sense of traditional, time-proven, concrete governing institutions, particularly the monarchy and Parliament.   Note that Dr. Johnson spoke not of “One who adheres to the state” but “One who adheres to the antient constitution of the state”.   What monarchy and Parliament, which complement each other, have in common, is that they are both very personal ways of thinking about government.   The king reigns as father/patriarch over his kingdom(s), an extension of his family, as his governing office is an extension of the family as the model of society and state.   Parliament is the where the representatives of the governed meet to have their say in the laws under which they live and how their taxes are spent.   The conversation between these two personal governing institutions has contributed greatly to the most worthy accomplishments of our civilization, and both have long proven their worth, so it is of these that I prefer to say that I as a Tory have a high view, rather than the impersonal state.   I have a higher view of the monarchy than of Parliament, and not merely because those who currently occupy the seats of Parliament leave much to be desired, but for the very Tory reason that if the Church should be worshipping on Earth as in Heaven, government ought to be modelled after the Heavenly pattern as well.   God is the King of Kings, and governs the universe without the aid of elected representatives.    Monarchy is the essential form of government.   Parliament accommodates the model to our human condition.    


Capitalism or Socialism?


There is a popular notion that unless one has no opinion on economics at all one must be either a capitalist or a socialist.   Those who have studied economic theory will point out that that this is a little like the dilemma posed in the question “Did you walk to work or take a bagged lunch?” – a capitalist, in the terms of economic theory, is someone who owns and lives off of capital, whereas a socialist is someone who believes in the idea of socialism.   Since, however, for most people, the term capitalist now means “someone who believes in capitalism” we will move on.   A more nuanced version of the popular nation postulates a spectrum with capitalism, in the sense of pure laissez-faire with no government involvement in the market whatsoever as the right pole, and pure socialism, where the government not only controls but owns everything, as the left pole, with most people falling somewhere between and being identified as capitalists or socialists depending upon the pole to which they are the closest.   The terms “left” and “right” in popular North American usage have been strongly shaped by this concept even though their original usage in Europe was quite different – the “left” were the supporters of the French Revolution, which, although it was the template of all subsequent Communist revolutions, was not a socialist undertaking per se, and the “right” were the Roman Catholic royalists, the continental equivalent of the English Tories.   To complicate matters there is the expression “far right” which is usually used to suggest the idea of Nazism, which makes no sense with either the old continental European or the new North American usage, although the less commonly used “far left” for Communists makes sense with both.   

The conservatives who think civilization began with the dawn of Modern liberalism and have little interest in conserving anything other than classical liberalism tend to accept this idea of a socialist-capitalist, left-right, economic spectrum and to identify as capitalists.   This makes sense because it is liberalism they are trying to conserve and the Adam Smith-David Ricardo-Frédéric Bastiat theory of laissez-faire that we commonly identify as capitalism is more properly called economic liberalism.   

With us Tories it is a bit more complicated and this has led, in my country, the Dominion of Canada, to the idea held by some that classical conservatives or Tories, unlike American neoconservatives, are closer to socialism than to capitalism.     To come to this conclusion, however, one must accept the American notion of a socialist-capitalist economic spectrum and the idea contained within it that any move away from laissez-faire is a move in the direction of socialism.   That idea is nonsense and does tremendous violence to the historical meaning of the word socialism.   Historically, several different socialist movements, popped up at about the same time.   What they all had in common was a) the idea that the private ownership of property, meaning capital, any form of wealth that generates an income for its owner by producing something that can be sold in the market is the source of all social evils because it divides society into classes, some of which own property, others of which must sell their labour to the propertied classes in order to make a living, and b) the idea that the remedy is some sort of collective ownership of property.   In the Marxist version of socialism, this collective ownership was conceived of as by the state, after it had been seized in violent revolution by the proletariat (factory workers).   In other versions of socialism, such as that of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the state was viewed as unnecessary – Proudhon, as well as being a socialist, was the first anarchist - and collective ownership was conceived of more in terms of workers’ co-operatives.  Socialism, in both its diagnosis of the cause of social ills and in its proposed remedy, is fundamentally at odds with orthodox Christianity, which tells us that sin, the condition of the human heart as the result of the Fall of Man is the cause of social ills, and that the only remedy for sin is the grace of God, obtained for mankind by Jesus Christ through His Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection, and brought to mankind by His Church in its two-fold Gospel Ministry of Word and Sacrament.   From the perspective of orthodox Christianity, socialism, therefore, is an attempt to bypass the Cross and to regain Paradise through human political and social endeavours.   Even worse than that it is Envy, the second worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, made to wear the mask of Charity, the highest of the Theological Virtues, and institutionalized.   It is therefore utterly condemned by orthodox Christianity and Toryism, the political expression of orthodox Christianity, in its rejection of laissez-faire liberalism does not step in the direction of socialism.  Even when Toryism supports state social programs for the relief of poverty, unemployment, and the like, as it did under Disraeli in the United Kingdom in the Victorian era and as it historically did in Canada, it was not for socialist reasons, not because it believed that inequality was the cause of all social ills and wealth redistribution society’s panacea, but for counter-socialism reasons, because it did not want poverty, unemployment, etc. to because the opportunity for recruitment to the cause of socialism which it correctly saw as a destructive force that unchained leads to greater misery, especially for those whom it claims to want to help.   

The main way in which Toryism has historically envisioned a larger economic role for government than laissez-faire liberalism has been that the Tory recognizes the genuine economic interests of the entire realm, such as the need for domestic production of essential goods so as to not be dependent upon external supplies that may be cut off in an emergency, along with the economic interests of local communities, families, and individuals.   Adam Smith argued that individuals are the most competent people to look out for their own economic interests rather than governments, especially distant ones, and Toryism doesn’t dispute this as a general principle – obviously there are exceptions.   Rather it agrees with this principle and adds that families are the most competent at looking out for their interests as families, and communities for their interests at communities – this is what the idea of subsidiarity, rooted in Christian social theory, is all about.   Toryism doesn’t accept Smith’s claim that individuals looking out for their own interests will automatically result in these other interests taking care of themselves, much less those of the entire realm.   The government, although incompetent at making economic decisions for individuals qua individuals, or families qua families, communities qua communities, for that matter,  is generally as an institution, the best suited for making economic decisions for the realm.   

This is compromised, of course, if the person selected to lead His Majesty’s government as Prime Minister is an incompetent dolt, imbecile, and moron.    The government of Sir John A. Macdonald, protecting fledgling Canadian industries with tariffs while investing heavily in the production of the railroad that would facilitate east-west commerce, uniting Canada and preventing her from being swallowed up piecemeal by her neighbor to the south is an example of government making the best sort of economic decisions for the realm.   Unfortunately, His Majesty’s government is currently led by the classic example of the other kind of Prime Minister.


Which Branch of the Modern Tree?


Not so long ago, when the fashionable, progressive, forward-thinking, and up-to-date began to tell us that boys or men who thought they were girls or women and girls or women who thought they were boys or men should be treated as if they were what they thought and said they were instead of what they actually were in reality, rather than indulge this nonsense we ought instead to have treated those making this absurd suggestion the way we had hitherto treated those who thought they were something other than what they were, that is to say, called those fellows in the white uniforms with the butterfly nets to come and take them away that they might have a nice long rest in a place where they would be no harm to themselves or others.   Instead we left them among the general populace where they proceeded to wreak maximum harm.   

It had seemed, at one time, that this madness had peaked when people started introducing themselves by their “preferred pronouns” rather than their names but, as is usual when one makes the mistake of thinking things can’t get any worse, they did.    The past few years have seen a major backlash finally starting to take shape against the aggressive promotion of this gender craziness in the schools, and no, I don’t mean the post-secondary institutions that have long been home to every wacky fad under the sun, I am talking about elementary schools.   It seems that teachers, with the backing of school board administrators, have taken to treating every instance in which a boy says that he is a girl, or a girl says that she is a boy, as a serious case of gender dysphoria rather than the passing phase it would otherwise be in most cases and responded with “gender affirmation” which is a euphemism for indulging and encouraging gender confusion – and forcing everyone else in the classroom to go along with it.   To top it off, they have been keeping all of this secret from the parents.    

The state of California in the United States has just taken this to the next level, as a bill has passed in its legislative assembly that would essentially make “gender affirmation” a requirement for parents to retain custody of their children.    It is worth bringing up at this point that there is a very similar and closely related euphemism to “gender affirmation” and that is “gender affirming care”, which refers to using hormones and surgery to make someone who thinks they are of the other sex physically resemble that sex.   The same lunatics that I have been talking about, think it appropriate to offer this “care” to prepubescent children.   In every single instance where this is done – every single instance – it is a case of child abuse.  Period!   

It is this aggressive war on the sexual innocence of childhood and the rights and authority of parents that has sparked the backlash on the part of parents who have had enough and are fighting back.   Some jurisdictions, like the state of Florida in the United States, and the provinces of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan here in Canada, have responded by requiring schools to notify parents when this sort of thing is going on.  The government in my own province of Manitoba has promised to do this if they are re-elected next month.    That, I would say, is the very least they ought to do.   I think that teachers that twist the minds of young kids in this way ought to be severely punished – a case can be made for bringing back the stocks and/or public flogging to do this.   

The progressives, including both Captain Airhead, Prime Minister of Canada, and J. Brandon Magoo, President of the United States, have denounced the policy of informing parents as if it were placing kids in mortal danger.   Progressive spin-doctors have even coined a new expression “forced outing” with which to vilify the sensible idea that teachers should not be allowed to continue to get away with this ultra-creepy business of sexualizing little kids and encouraging them to keep it a secret from their parents.   

Those whose conservatism seeks primarily or solely to conserve the older stage of the Modern liberal tradition tend to view this sort of progressive cultural extremism as a form of Marxism or Communism.   There is truth in this perspective in that sort of thinking among progressives in academe that leads them to embrace such nonsense can be traced back to academic Marxism’s post-World War I reinvention of itself along cultural rather than economic lines, albeit through the detour of a few prominent post-World War II thinkers who were heirs of Marx only in the sense of following in his footsteps as intellectual revolutionaries rather than that of having derived their ideas from his in any substantial way.   The phenomenon itself – the idea that one has the right to self-identify as a “gender” other than one’s biological sex, to expect or even demand that others acknowledge this self-identification and affirm it to be true, and even to force reality itself in the form of one’s biological sex to bend to this self-identification – does not come from Marx, and those countries that had the misfortune of having been taken over by regimes dedicated to his evil ideas seem to have been partly compensated for this by being inoculated against this sort of thing.   This is the autonomous individual of Locke, Mill, and the other classical liberals taken to the nth degree and it is the countries where liberalism has had the most influence that have proven the most vulnerable to this gender insanity.