Alan Keyes
May 8, 2017
Discarding Christianity discards truths of humanity: A meditation
By Alan Keyes

The famous English historian Edward Gibbon took the view that the rise of Christianity played a critically important role in the fall of both the Western and Eastern divisions of the Roman Empire. Christianity's rise among the common folk of the Empire and its elites encouraged the depreciation of pagan piety. That piety was a crucial ingredient in the military discipline that substantiated Rome's governance. It also represented the formal understanding of authority that elevated Rome's emperor to the position of a God of gods, formally worshiped as Supreme wherever Rome's legions defeated armies that relied on any other.
    As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear, without surprise or scandal, that the introduction, or at least the abuse, of Christianity had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity; the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of the military spirit were buried in the cloister; a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and the soldiers' pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes, who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. (Edward Gibbon. "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," Vol. 3, Chapter XXXVIII)
From the perspective of ancient Rome, Gibbon may have been right to deprecate "the useless multitudes of both sexes" whose claims of virtue were exemplified by "abstinence and chastity." It may have been prudent for the Romans to deride doctrines contrary to the ethos that empowered their supremacy. But in the context of the biblical patriotism of the Christian age, the doctrines and demands Rome despised became the basis for a self-discipline, accessible to people of all stations in life. As it matured over the centuries, it produced scientific, economic, and military achievements far beyond the greatest visions of Roman ambition.

The key to that success was the Christian understanding of Divine power, which combined respect for the universal supremacy of that power with a sense of God's presence, on the whole, in each and every possibility of existence, including that of each and every human being. This brought the semblance of Divine power within the compass of human understanding, diversely informing or influencing every human individual.

So, in the fruits of its rational knowledge (science), humanity came to know, in thought, the truth of Christ's words that "The Kingdom of God is within you"; and, in the outward experience of the consequences of human reasoning (advances in technology, for good or ill) the truth of God's word, that we are made "in the image and likeness of God." For it was by applying what they saw in the thoughts of their heart's imagination that abstract thinkers laid the foundations for some breathtaking advances in human power.

Those advances came in consequence of understanding the operation of the otherwise invisible rule (the rule of reason) that allows human beings who carefully observe the operation of that rule in the mathematical realm to structure and verify experiences (experiments) in our material world that produce reliably predictable results, corresponding to expectations shaped in conformity with that rule. Thus, the evidence of things outwardly unseen (the objects of mathematical thought) gives rise to trustworthy results, substantiating the expectations (hopes) built upon our reliance on the rule's proven application to objects in the abstract realm of mathematical thought.

So, the rule of reason makes manifest the potential power whose inward presence human beings functionally acknowledge and observe in rational thought, even though it remains unknown to their experience until they choose carefully to follow the rule as they structure their activities in the material world. This is like the Divine power St. Paul refers to in his speech to the Athenians, in connection with their worship of "the unknown God," to whose presence their poets ascribe the substance in and from which the activities that constitute human existence have their being.

The intuition that being itself somehow substantiates the existence of every aspect of existence – i.e., that God, the Being of all beings, is the progenitor of all that is – takes concrete form in the person of Jesus Christ, the presence in human form of the One wholly responsible for Nature (the world of our existence), as we know it, i.e., as it is humanly conceived and realized. But as human beings, doesn't our nature correspond to God's intention for humanity? Isn't Christ's calling also our calling, the vocation of God existent in human form, at once in and of the world, yet somehow also in and of itself, absolutely distinct from it?

But if, as the Scripture says, Christ the Incarnate Word is also the Word through whom all things are made, in being ourselves, our existence must respect the divisions of God's being by and in which existence is made manifest in all its manifold complexity. These are the limits, boundaries, and rules by which Nature is informed, and natures of all kinds really exist. If their existence is the Love of God at work, and we are called, in Christ, to preserve and respect that work, are we not equally bound to act like Christ, preserving God's will above our own? But if we are called to respect the determinations God has made for other beings, are we not first of all required to accept what He has done for us, as humans? As the Psalm says, "It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves...." (Psalm 100:2).

And so, like Christ, we are called to say to God, "Not my will but thine be done." How then can it be right for Christians to embrace any view that rejects the lines God has drawn to preserve the distinct form of our humanity, including the line that distinguishes humanity within itself, so that we may be made one, through the One He has begotten, as children of God, known to ourselves within ourselves, yet, in and through Jesus Christ, known also as He knows Himself in us? People in our time who call upon us to reject God's rule for our nature invite us to abandon the ethos that empowers not just the achievements engendered by the Christian understanding of the world, but also the achievement of Christ for our salvation. How can this abandonment of God, and of ourselves as God made us, deserve the name of justice and right, much less the name of love?

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at LoyalToLiberty.com and his commentary at WND.com and BarbWire.com.

© Alan Keyes

 

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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – one featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)

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