Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Plain Account Of Myself

The Christian heroism (and perhaps it is rarely to be seen) is to venture wholly to be oneself, as an individual man, this definite individual man, alone before the face of God, alone in this tremendous exertion and this tremendous responsibility...

Soren Kierkegaard
Preface to Sickness Unto Death

A good part of my contemplative beard stroking has had to do with the objectivity of truth. In an age where the sides in moral disputes are often picked according to one's political affiliations and favorite decades, the lines drawn up hard based upon whether you prefer the 1950's (or any era prior to that) or the dizzying contemporaneity of the last second, it seems that so much of what we say we believe is either rooted merely in the discomfort with change or the impatience with inertia.
Conservatism being more often the champion of what is supposed to be Christian values (indeed, the two designations have become almost an inseperable demographical duo), it has leaned hard on the objectivity of truth; as have I.
It has been and is still important to me to have a fixed point of reference, without which one must wander with the predictable aimlessness of a snowflake in search of the ground on a very windy day.
With it, one may, probably will, still wander but at least knows it came from above and is headed for below.
I have often taken issue with American christian conservatism, partly for being intractable, nationalistic, xenophobic, authoritarian and partly for being too much like the moral relativists they claim to oppose, especially when justification is needed for a compromise.
But as it is presumed that I as a Christian must hold more in common with conservatism than liberalism, in the popularly slightly erroneous definition of the terms, I accept that presumption for a jumping off point.
There is such a thing as absolute truth that is objectively true. God, in fact, stands as the Absolute Objective Truth. God has many attributes, but all of them are shot completely through with a truth that ultimately cannot be adjusted, not to say that it will be completely attained. In fact, it won't, thus the scriptural apologetic His ways are past our finding out.
In hoisting the banner of objective truth, it may be supposed that I would find subjective truth to be the gospel of the Adversary. What is supposed, however, is not completely accurate.
I have referred to a fixed point of reference.
The importance of this monolith is found not only in the fact that it doesn't move, but also in the fact that due to its immobility, by it we know where we are. I may be on one side, you on the other, coloring our perception of course, but more importantly for my purposes here, casting each one of us in a unique relationship to it.
I have also referred to snowflakes. Quite apart from the current perjorative sense in which it's generally meant, I would like to take from this comparison the one-in-an-existence distinction that snowflakes enjoy.
Every last one is distinctive, bearing the signature of divine design.
As do we.
Bearing these distinctions in mind should make us appreciate the unique position in which every one of us stands in relation to the absolute.
There are several aphorisms that apply: Be your own man, Think for yourself, Don't be a follower.
My aim in life is this: To take all responsibility for myself upon myself.
No Christian would dispute that at the final Judgement, there will be no one to advocate for you before God, unless of course, you have chosen to be represented by Christ, which will entail holding nothing back from your Lawyer. In exchange for His representation, He asks that you stand in integrity before Him, so that He may plead your case unabashed to His Father.
You must give an account of yourself.
To do so, you must shoulder an enormous responsibility.
Think and believe for yourself, recognizing what a grave concern it is, while recognizing that not thinking and believing for yourself is a terminal mistake.
Here is where I begin to differ from conservatism. It's in the term itself. Taken literally, it is to "conserve" what is reckoned to be good and beneficial to​ society. The "good and the beneficial" is often, almost always, in fact, embedded in tradition, in creeds, and in the wisdom inherited from the previous generations.
But, the problem anyone faces when conserving is the problem of stagnation ​and rot. Wisdom can't really be inherited. Wisdom is subject to a 90+% inheritance tax. It does not transfer from parent to child. Customs, ideals and traditions are tax free and even times accrue interest.
Wisdom is manna from Heaven, and we all remember what happened when proactive Israelites tried to conserve leftovers.
There is also a sense in which conservation can contribute to the laziness and irresponsibility of consecutive generations. There is a good comparison to be drawn here between trust fund babies and second, third, fourth and so on generations of a movement. A loving parent will have to fight the temptation to cushion the life of the child. A loving parent knows that wisdom is self-activated. Telling your progeny to do this, and not do that, to avoid mistakes and heartache is as natural, and helpful as a passenger who knows where the destination is telling the driver what turns to make. It will get you there once, but if the driver has not driven it himself, looking for landmarks and orientating himself, he will likely never find it again.
Much has been said by more learned and familiar men than I about Rene Descartes, with some vanguards of Western Christianity even declaring that the delicate philosopher introduced a virus into that institution.
But there is a courage in what he did that I can't help but admire. He burned down the suppositional structure of epistemology and sifted through the ashes until he found the indestructible grain of existence.
A man must have belief, before all.
Belief in something precedes all logic, as a foundation underlies a structure.
That belief itself must be personally attained and attested.
How easy it would be, even under the most severe and technically legalistic system, to lay the responsibilities for oneself upon another. Slavery is a comfort to those who fear anxiety as the dizziness of freedom, to paraphrase Kierkegaard.
Freedom is euphoria only if a man chooses to be free. If a man is lazy, freedom is a burden far more ponderous than chains.
"Free thinking" has often been derided as irresponsible and gratuitous. It has been maligned as a way for a heretic or a fool to justify his heresy or his foolishness. And, it often is.
But truth shows her paradoxical colors here, as in all things worthwhile. "Free thinking" can be a way astray, but it is the ONLY way to the Truth.

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