Friday, July 12, 2019

The Root of American Republicanism and Her Dreams of Exceptionalism

Political ideas do not appear in a vacuum.  They are the outgrowth of theology.  The same is no less true of the political ideas espoused by folks in the States:  Their origins lie quite firmly in the heretical theology of the Protestant Reformation.  And this goes a long way toward explaining why the Holy American Republic and its political ideas have caused so many problems in the world.  Dr Vladimir Moss writes of Protestantism,

     Luther’s reported words – “Here I stand, so help me God, I can do no other” – represent the essence of his creed and of his revolutionary challenge to the whole of Western Christendom. For by placing his individual conscience above every authority, whether secular or ecclesiastical, he undermined all authority, replacing it with the most individualist kind of anarchism. Of course, he also appealed to Scripture, to the Word of God. But this was a diversion: by making every unaided individual believer the interpreter of Scripture, he effectively undermined scriptural authority also. Scripture, the written word of God, was only a seeming authority, a fig-leaf to hide the real authority, the believer’s self-will. The only authority left was the naked ego…
     This is what we may call Protestant rationalism; it was born in the soil of Catholic rationalism, which consisted in placing the mind of one man, the Pope, above the Catholic consciousness of the Church, the Mind of Christ. Protestantism rejected Papism, but did not reject its underlying principle. Thus instead of placing the mind of one man above the Church, it placed the mind of every man, every believer, above it. As Luther himself declared: “In matters of faith each Christian is for himself Pope and Church.”[2] And so Protestantism, as New Hieromartyr Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) put it, “placed a papal tiara on every German professor and, with its countless number of popes, completely destroyed the concept of the Church, substituting faith with the reason of each separate personality.”[3]
     As Frank Furedi writes, “His defiant stand, would eventually provide legitimation for disobeying all forms of authority….
     “Did Luther really hurl the legendary words – ‘Here I stand, so help me God, I can do no other’ – at his accusers? In a sense it does not matter. Luther did not merely assert the authority of individual conscience to justify his own actions: he advanced a compelling case for the value of people being able to act in accordance with the dictates of their conscience. In so doing his argument implicitly called into question the right of external authority to exercise power over the inner life of people. 
     “The distinction that Luther drew about the nature of authority represented an important step in the conceptualisation of a new limit on its exercise. His Treatise on Good Works (1520) asserted that ‘the power of the temporal authority, whether it does right or wrong, cannot harm the soul’. This idealisation of the soul  and its protected status from external authority encouraged European culture to devote greater interest in individual conscience and eventually to endow the self with moral authority.
     “In helping to free the inner person from the power of external authority, Luther’s theology contributed to the weakening of the very concept of external authority, including that of divine authority [my italics – V.M.] The freeing of the inner person from the power of external authority restricted the exercise of absolute authority in all its forms. ”[4]

Though the Protestants bemoan the moral degradation around them, the flouting of the authority of the Scriptures or the Constitution, the ascendancy of LGBT rights, etc., if they are honest, they will admit that they have only themselves and their theology to blame.  Their teaching that every man is ‘Pope and Church’ undermines all authority, as was pointed out above.  So when a man or woman claims the right to love someone of the same sex; or when a federal district judge chooses to overturn a lawful Trump executive order; and so on, they are only following the example set by the Protestants:  ‘It is the conviction of my conscience versus your claims to authority’.

But let us see what else lies behind the ideology of Americanism:

     What gives the Protestants this boldness, this extreme self-confidence in the infallibility of their own conscience and their own reasoning? The answer lies in another characteristic and fundamental doctrine of Protestantism, predestination. It was their belief that they were elect and saved that gave the Reformers the boldness – more exactly, the extreme folly – to raise their minds above all established authority.

 . . . Salvation, consciousness of election, consisted of the turning of the heart towards God. A man knew that he was saved because he felt, at some stage of his life, an inner satisfaction, a glow, which told him that he was in direct communion with God. Cromwell was said to have died happy when assured that grace once known could never be lost: for once he had been in a state of grace. We are not dealing here with the mystical ecstasy of a recluse: we are dealing rather with the conscience of the average gentleman, merchant or artisan. What gave him consciousness of election was not the painful scrutiny of his works, for the preachers never tired of telling him that none could keep the commandment, that ‘we cannot cooperate with any grace of God’ unless there is ‘a special spirit infused’. It was the sense of elation and power that justified him and his worldly activities, that gave him self-confidence in a world of economic uncertainty and political hostility. The elect were those who thought they were elect, because they had an inner faith which made them feel free, whatever their external difficulties.
     “Philosophically, the argument is circular. But Calvinism did not exist primarily as a philosophical system. It gave courage and confidence to a group of those who believed themselves to be God’s elect. It justified them, in this world and the next… ‘Men, who have assurance that they are to inherit heaven, have a way of presently taking possession of the earth.’”[6]


Here is the reason why Americans feel they can do as they please in the world:  They have been predestined to world leadership by God; they have the special Gnostic ‘inner feeling of assurance’ that God has chosen them as a special people for a special work.  And they have not been shy about ‘taking possession of the earth.’

Thankfully, Dr Moss offers a corrective to the Protestant errors he has touched upon in his essay:

     “But is not conscience truly infallible?” one may object. “Is it not, as the expression goes, ‘the eye of God in the soul of man’? And as such, will it not always indicate to us the truth?” 
     Conscience is indeed the eye of God in the soul of man. And if a man’s soul is purified to reflect the light of God, then his conscience will always reveal to him the truth. But the tragedy of the human condition is that man’s soul is very often – usually – not purified from the passions that hinder the pure light of God from entering the soul; so that when a man thinks he is following his conscience and God he is in fact following the fallen desires of his heart, of which the prophet says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah17.9).
     That is why Holy Scripture itself forbids the individual interpretation of Scripture: as St. Peter says, “No Scripture is of any private interpretation” (II Peter 1.20). Our understanding of Scripture, as of all theological subjects, must be tested and corrected in accordance with the conciliar mind of the Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3.15), to which alone is given the promise of infallibility. The holy apostles and Fathers of the Church were unanimous in their understanding of the faith because they were free from passion and trained in obedience to the Mind of Christ as manifested in the Church. The Protestants, by contrast, have split into a myriad of warring sects precisely because each individual Protestant is permitted to understand the faith in his own way with no conciliar authority to guide and correct him. They have made gods of their minds, with the result that they have fallen into the abyss of idolatry. Thinking to see clearly with the eye of their darkened consciences, they have fallen into a pit from which it is very difficult to escape until they recognize their blindness. For, as the Lord said: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6.22-23).


In the Light of the True Faith of the Holy Orthodox Church, the political landscape would appear quite different to those living in the States.  For their sake and for the sake of all the peoples of the world who have been battered and bruised and bloodied because of her arrogance, we hope they will ‘recognize their blindness.’


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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