The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, June 14, 2024

Pride and Lust

The sixth month of the year is upon us.  This is the month formerly known as June.   It took that name from Juno who in Roman mythology was the queen of the Olympian gods, the equivalent of Hera in Greek mythology.  That her name has been supplanted is not a belated effect of the triumph of Christianity over classical paganism, alas, but a sign of the waning influence of Christianity in Western Civilization, the name given to what used to be Christendom after it was taken over by liberalism.  A few decades ago a day in this month was set aside by liberal neo-pagans for the celebration of every sort of, well, what Jorge Bergoglio recently called “frociaggine” to the rage of his cult of progressive fans.  There are those who think such language should not be used even in quoting another.  My response to such a Mrs. Grundy can be found in the Anglo-Norman motto of the Order of the Garter, “honi soit qui mal y pense which means “shame on he who thinks evil of it” (although I prefer the older, if slightly less precise, translation “evil to him who thinks evil of it”).   Should that prove unsatisfactory, the only thing I have to add to it is, from the mother tongue of both Bergoglio’s own language and the Italian he was speaking when he uttered the word quoted, “futue te ipsum”.  I will not provide a translation, suffice it to say it was probably what King Edward III was saying silently in his head to those to whom he originally uttered the chivalric motto out loud.   At any rate, it was the celebration, in other words, of all the letters of the alphabet soup.  Then, deciding that a day was not enough, they expanded it to a week, and then the whole month.  Somewhere along the way the word that at one time denoted a glad, cheerful, even merry disposition but which had been hijacked by the alphabet soup gang as a self-designation was dropped from the title and so it simply became “Pride.”  


I have observed several times in the past that when it was shortened to “Pride” the lesser of two sins was dropped and the greater retained.   Indeed, what was retained is the name of the greatest of all sins.   The famous Seven Deadly Sins are Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony and Lust.   Of these sins – actually vices, since these denote habits or ongoing attitudes rather than single acts – the one with which the dropped “Gay” would be associated is Lust, which is associated with Sloth, Avarice, and Gluttony at the lower end of the spectrum.  Each of these is a vice in the strict Aristotelean sense of the word – a natural appetite indulged in to excess, and susceptible of various perversions.   Pride and Envy are linked at the other end of the spectrum.  These are the Satanic sins, the sins by which Lucifer fell and evil began its parasitic infestation of God’s good creation. 


I wrote about this at length last year in an essay entitled “The Season of Hubris. This essay is intended to be supplementary to that one rather than a repetition of everything I wrote there so I encourage you to read the two together.  


With regards to the contrasted sins of Pride and Lust a few observations are in order.  The first of these is that Pride’s being the worst of the Seven Deadly is the ultimate answer to those who think that sin is something that resides in the body alone and is not found in the mind or soul.  Plato, in his Politeia, a dialogue aimed at providing an account of dikiaosune (justice), has Socrates and his interlocutors construct a hypothetical ideal city.   The assumption behind this experiment is that the city-state is like a larger-scale man and that therefore it is easier to understand justice in the individual soul by seeing it writ large in a city.   Thus in Plato’s ideal city-state the philosopher-kings who love wisdom rule the producers who love money through auxiliary enforcers who love honour, and these classes respectively represent the reason, the appetites, and the will in the soul.   In the justice of the rightly-ordered soul the reason governs the appetites through the will.   The truth of the Christian revelation does not oppose this description, but assigns it to natural justice.   Original justice, with which man was created, included natural justice but it also included a higher spiritual justice which was a grace given through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.  Both were lost in the Fall and while natural man can attain a type of civic justice that approximates natural justice while falling short of it as it was in man’s original antelapsarian state it is only through the grace made available by the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ that man can be made spiritually whole and just.   When St. Paul describes the state of unredeemed fallen human nature as sarkos (the flesh) this indicates both that in the fallen state the lower sensual part of human nature, the appetites of which  Plato wrote, which is supposed to be governed by the higher rational part of human nature, instead exert a rebellious dominance over the soul and that the entirety of human nature, body and soul, which is supposed to be governed by God, the indwelling Holy Ghost, is instead in rebellion against Him and in the absence of His indwelling presence spiritually dead.  While the Platonic concept of the rightly-ordered soul can be seen in this it should not be taken as teaching other Platonic ideas that are incompatible with Christian truth such as the idea that certain heretics that the Church struggled against in the early centuries of the faith derived from Plato as to evil being entirely and only a property of matter, and therefore the body, and that it did not touch spirit, and therefore the soul.  In Christian truth, including the epistles of St. Paul who wrote “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12), sin and therefore evil, began in the spiritual realm with the rebellion and fall of the devil who then tempted man.  The worst sins that a person can commit are not those that consist of indulging the sensual appetites to excess and thereby binding in chains of slavery the rational soul that ought to be governing and moderating the appetites and thereby cultivating the cardinal virtue of temperance.  The worst sins are those that take place strictly in the soul in its rebellion against God and refusal to submit to Him in humility.  The foremost and worst of these is Pride.


This should not be taken as detracting from the seriousness of the sin of Lust which is, after all, still one of the Seven Deadly.  Which leads to the next observation.  While Pride was closely connected to Envy, the second of the Seven Deadly sins, in the fall of the devil it was closely connected to Lust, in the fall of man.   Or rather, since Lust, as distinguished from Gluttony and Avarice in the Seven Deadly Sins, clearly means immoderate desire of a specifically sexual nature, it was closely connected to “Lust” in a broader sense of immoderate desire in general.  The Lust in the Seven Deadly Sins as well as Avarice, Gluttony, and Sloth if conceived of as immoderate desire for rest, are each specific examples of this broader sense of Lust.   This is the sense in which St. John used the word – twice – when he wrote “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (I Jn, 2:16)  The Greek word for Lust in this verse is epithumia. (1)


The two Lusts and the Pride identified in this verse are precisely the means employed by the devil to tempt Eve to sin.   This is evident in how Moses describes her response to the serpent’s temptation:


And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Gen. 3:6)


First she saw “that the tree was good for food” meaning that she desired the forbidden fruit for food.   This is the “lust of the flesh” which includes Gluttony as well as Lust proper.   Then she saw “that it was pleasant to the eyes” and so desired it with the “lust of the eyes.”   Finally, she saw that it was “to be desired to make one wise” which is a desire that appeals to the “pride of life.”   So it is that by inspiring Pride and Lust together, the enemy wrought the Fall of man.


This observation would not be complete without noting that the devil attempted this a second time with very different results.   When he came to Jesus after He had been fasting forty days in the wilderness and said “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matt. 4:3) this was an attempt to stir up the “lust of the flesh.”  When he took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem and told Him “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Matt. 4:6) it was the “pride of life” that he sought to use.  When he took Jesus to a mountaintop and showed Him the kingdoms of the world and their glory and said “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9) the “lust of the eyes” was the means he sought to employ.  In each of these the Second Adam triumphed where the first had fallen.  That St. Luke was inspired to record these temptations in a slightly different order with the last two reversed is perhaps to be explained as making the parallel with the temptation of Eve stand out more by presenting the temptations in the same order as in Genesis.


So it was that Lust and Pride brought about the Fall of man and so, appropriately, one of the first things recorded in the accounts of the Redemption of man in the Synoptic Gospels is the Saviour’s successful triumph over these temptations.  In the Genesis account of the Fall, however, Pride stands out as playing the larger role in the temptation.   That Pride was what had previously brought about the tempter’s own fall can be deduced from the Old Testament passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel traditionally regarded as alluding to his rebellion and is explicitly stated in the New Testament by St. Paul in 1 Tim. 3:16.  When the deuterocanonical Wisdom of Solomon states that “through envy of the devil came death into the world” (Wis. 2:24) this has been interpreted as meaning either that Envy was involved alongside Pride in the devil’s own fall or that it was his motive in tempting Eve.  In a popular Medieval account of the fall of the devil these interpretations are united.   The school of Alexander of Hales attributed this account to St. Bernard of Clairvaux in his commentary on the book of Jonah (2).   St. Thomas Aquinas also attributes this account to St. Bernard in the commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences that he wrote to complete his master’s degree in theology at the University of Paris. (3)   According to this account the Incarnation, in which humanity would be raised to the highest honour by being joined to deity in the Hypostatic Union of the Son of God, was revealed to Lucifer, whose Pride rebelled at the thought of a lower order of being so being elevated above him and so out of Envy he sought to thwart the outcome by enticing man to sin.   Robert Grosseteste, the thirteenth century Bishop of Lincoln and Oxford University administrator and professor, gave the following approving statement of the account without mentioning its author:


Accordingly—and this seems truer than the above-mentioned way—the fall of the angel had happened because from the beginning it was proposed to the angel that the Son of God made man must be believed for justice and must venerated and adored with that adoration that is latria.  For if by this faith and not otherwise the angels had had salvation, this faith would not have been at any time denied to or kept hidden from the angels, but from the beginning it would have been proposed and manifest to them all.  From the beginning, it seems, the Devil refused through pride to offer this faith, despised the man who ought to be adored above him, and disdained receiving justice from him.  The Devil thought him unworthy, envied him, and coveted his singular excellence; through this envy, by which he envied the God-man and hated him, he was a murderer from the beginning, because “whosoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 Jn 3.15).  So the Devil did not remain in the truth of faith and salvation offered to him. (4)


Peter Lombard, the Italian theologian and Bishop of Paris who was a contemporary of St. Bernard provided the following account of the devil’s envy in tempting man to sin:


ON THE DEVIL’S ENVY, BY WHICH HE CAME TO TEMPT HUMANKIND.  And so the devil, seeing that human beings were able to ascend by the humility of obedience to that from which he had fallen through pride, envied them.  He who through pride had previously become the devil, that is, the one who has fallen below, by the jealousy of envy was made satan, that is, the adversary. (5)


While to the extent that they go beyond what can be gleaned directly from the Scriptures these accounts must be reckoned as speculative they are not wild speculation.   Note that in each account Pride is the root of Envy.  Envy, in these accounts and in the Seven Deadly Sins, must not be thought of the way the word is often used today as a mere synonym for jealousy (in the sense of wanting what someone else has, not in the sense of zealously guarding one’s own to the point of constantly suspecting others of trying to take it).   It does not mean merely coveting what belongs to someone else but hating another person to the point of seeking that person’s destruction for having what one in one’s Pride erroneously thinks is rightly one’s own.


Which brings us to our final observation.   Outside the alphabet soup gang the earliest support for turning the sixth lunar cycle of the year into a celebration of the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins came from what is commonly called the Left.  Historically, the Left has usually been thought of as the political expression of an economic movement, socialism, that is best described as the second worst Deadly Sin of Envy wearing the mask of the greatest Theological Virtue, Charity or Love.  Since the expression “Love is Love” (6) associated with the celebration of Pride, similarly uses the mask of Love to cover the Deadly Sin of Lust, this is ironically appropriate.  Of course the mainstream “Right” has largely jumped on the Pride bandwagon today, but this is to be expected from the mainstream “Right” which has little use for King, Church, tradition, family, hierarchy, chivalry and all the other good things the Right was traditionally supposed to stand for and is little more than yesterday’s liberalism, which is to capitalism what the Left is to socialism, just as capitalism is to the Deadly Sin of Avarice what socialism is to the Deadly Sin of Envy.  All that can be said for it is that at least the Avarice doesn’t hide behind a mask the way the Envy of socialism does.  Its face can be plainly seen in all the businesses who have sworn their allegiance to the Deadly Sin of Pride in order to make a quick buck by selling merchandize emblazoned with the symbol of God’s covenantal promise not to destroy the world with another Flood employed in defiance of Him and His Truth which is the only Truth.



(1)   This might surprise those more familiar with our Articles of Religion than the Greek text of the New Testament.   Article IX “Of Original Sin or Birth Sin” says that the “lust of the flesh” is “called in the Greek, phronema sarkos.” This is not the expression used by St. John in his epistle, but the expression used by St. Paul in the eighth chapter of Romans and which is rendered “carnal mind” in the Authorized Version.  That Archbishop Cranmer et al. had Romans 8:7 and not 1 John 2:16 in mind is evident from how the Article goes on to say “which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God” with the last clause being a direct reference to the verse in Romans.   The English Reformers seem to have interpreted the “carnal mind” of Romans 8:7 as being identical to the “lust of the flesh” of 1 John 2:16.  While the interpretation may be correct, it is rather a stretch to render phronema as “lust”.  “Mind, spirit” is the primary definition for this word given by Liddell and Scott, and “lust” is not one of the definitions provided.  Interestingly “high spirit, resolution, pride” is a secondary definition.   The portion of the Article in which this appears is the final section which articulates the Reformation position on concupiscence, namely that it is sinful in itself, and that it is not eliminated by regeneration.  Concupiscence is the Anglicized version of the word usually used to translate the Greek epithumia in Latin, although it is not the word used to mean Lust in the Latin list of the Seven Deadly Sins (that word is Luxuria).  Rome clumsily condemned the Reformation position in the fifth session of the Council of Trent – her wording suggests that sin has a “true and proper nature” or “essence”, which, of course, conflicts with the truly Catholic understanding that sin and evil do not have a true essence or nature but are present as defects in that which was created good and so are absences, or non-things rather than things in themselves, an understanding that Rome herself otherwise affirms – but the disagreement is largely semantic.  The Reformers and Rome did not use the word concupiscence with the same meaning.   The Reformers used it to mean desire for sensual sin qua sin, by which definition, of course, it is as Article IX (and Article II of the Lutheran Augsburg Confession) assert, itself sinful.   Rome used it to mean natural sensual desire and this, as Rome said, is not sinful in itself, but only when it is disordered and immoderate.   As for Rome’s seeming position that regeneration eliminates all inherited sinfulness it is difficult to take it seriously.   Its could only be harmonized with all the experiential evidence to the contrary by claiming that by His redeeming work, Jesus Christ merely returned man to the same precarious state he was in prior to the Fall rather than placing him on more solid footing, a claim which might be consistent with the stick-and-carrot soteriology to which the Reformers so rightly objected in the Roman teaching of the sixteenth century but which is hardly consistent with the Catholic Christian truth that God’s Son is the Last Adam the effects of Whose work to redeem and rescue us and place us in a state of abundant grace far exceed the ruinous effects of the sin of the First Adam.  E. L. Mascall’s remarks on Article IX and the effects of regeneration on Original Sin in Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and Its Consequences (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2017, originally published in 1946), 83-88 are well worth reading on this matter.

(2)   A Reader in Early Franciscan Theology: The Summa Halensis, edited and translated by Lydia Schumacher and Oleg Bychkov, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2022), 202.

(3)   St. Thomas Aquinas, Scriptum super libros Sententiarium III, D. 1, Q. 1, A. 3, Ad 7.

(4)   Robert Grosseteste, The Cessation of the Laws, translated by Stephen M. Hildebrand (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2012), 171 (3.2.3).

(5)   Peter Lombard, The Sentences: Book 2, On Creation, translated by Giulio Silano, (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2008), 90 (D. XXI, 1.1).

(6)   This expression is amusingly absurd to anyone with even the most basic classical learning.   The statement “Philia is Agape” does not mean the same thing as “Storge is Eros” and you would have statements with yet different meanings if you swapped either term in either statement for either term in the other and even if you just reversed the terms in the statements – “Agape is Philia” is a defensible statement in a way that is not true of “Philia is Agape” because Agape includes Philia or perhaps better is a specialized form of Philia.  Yet each of these terms means Love and this is not merely a matter of English being a less rich language than Greek, nor is it a case of equivocal uses of Love, such as when “bark” means both the sound that a dog makes and the outer layer of a tree trunk.  Even Eros means sexual Love rather than sexual Lust and is not merely a synonym for epithumia, as can be demonstrated by trying the experiment of reading the speeches about Eros in Plato’s Symposium and substituting epithumia or Lust for Eros or Love.  C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves (London: Geoffey Bles, 1960) is the best treatment of these terms, how they differ, and how they relate to each other, in English.





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